OR - broadens a search by combining synonyms or alternative forms of words. Any of the words must be present. Write down any commonly used alternatives to/synonyms for your search terms and connect them with or
Example: immigrants or new americans or refugees
NOT - excludes terms from a search; narrows and focuses a search Example: north africa not morocco
TRUNCATION (aka wildcard) - symbol used at the end of a word or rootword to retrieve variant word endings, including plurals; makes a search more efficient by decreasing the number of searches. Example: immigra* retrieves: immigration, immigrant, immigrants, etc.
Many (not all) databases use the * as the truncation symbol. Check the online Help in each database to find which symbol is used.
Put the search together. Make your search more efficient by using the "and" "or" connectors in one search.
Keywords : Words/terms that represent the main points/ideas of a topic - the most significant words in a topic, book or article. Used when searching databases and library catalogs as well as search engines on the Web.
Keyword searching finds words anywhere in the database record - in the title, subject headings, author's name, etc. Use the most important (or, "key") words in your topic, to get the most relevant results.
Identify Key Concepts
Write down your research question and circle or underline the words or terms that express the main idea/s.
Develop a List of Search Terms and Related Terms
The best papers emerge from your interest in a research area--if you're not interested in it, why should the reader be?
As you begin to think about your topic....
Areas of focus may be:
Based on the scope of your paper, sometimes exploring one focus is appropriate; sometimes more than one focus is appropriate. You'll determine this once you begin searching, based on whether you're finding way too much or very little information.
An encyclopedia essay may be useful to introduce even more aspects of a topic. Sometimes it takes several attempts to properly refine a topic. You are aiming for a research question that will enable you to make good decisions about what kind of source material you need and where you should look for that material.
Sometime using a “Concept Map” helps you create a visual diagram of the thinking you are engaged in, so you can reflect, sort, and refocus the ideas easily. Concept mapping is a good way to visualize the connections your mind makes between concepts and ideas. A concept map often generates keywords and synonyms/related terms. When trying to create a research question, concept mapping helps organize your thoughts and can lead you to isolate ideas that can make for a solid research paper.
There are no wrong answers! This is the phase of researching when you can let your mind go wherever it wants to.