A search strategy is an organized plan for gathering information. Developing a search strategy will help you locate appropriate information from a variety of sources.
Choose a topic that interests you and that isn't too broad or too narrow.
|Too Broad||Too Narrow|
Topics that are too broad have hundreds of books and articles written about them.
Example: Drug abuse
Topics that are too narrow have nothing or only one or two articles written about them.
Example: The effect of drug abuse on the athletic performance of 18-year-old hockey players in Argentina
Keep in mind that your topic isn't set in stone. As you read background information and search for sources, you can use what you learn to better define and focus your topic.
Watch this short video to learn how to narrow or broaden your topic:
Find background information in subject encyclopedias and textbooks. Use what you learn to define and focus your topic. The bibliographies, or lists of references, in these sources can serve as excellent starting points, since they include books and articles that are not only relevant, but also authoritative. You can find background information in the Library Catalog.
Generally, when you type in a topic, multiple online resources will be available. Look for "Research Starter", eBooks, or encyclopedias.
An important step in the initial analysis of any research topic is identifying the topic's central ideas, or main concepts. Typically, a research topic contains 2 to 4 main concepts.
Topic: The effect of playing video games on aggressive behavior in teenagers.
|Concept 1||Concept 2||Concept 3|
|video games||aggressive behavior||teenagers|
Once you've identified the main concepts, generate a list of search terms, or keywords and key phrases, under each concept. Consider synonyms (e.g., "teenagers" and "adolescents"), related terms, broader terms, and more specific terms.
|MAIN CONCEPTS:||video games||aggressive behavior||teenagers|
|SEARCH TERMS:||video games
video game consoles
wrestling video games
Notice that we didn't include the word "effect" in our search terms even though it's part of the topic. Terms like "cause," "effect," "relationship," "impact," "purpose," and "trends" are largely ambiguous, making them ineffective search terms. In general, overlook these kind of abstract terms.