Once you’ve chosen a research topic, you need to start searching for information on the topic. Before you head to the Library to look up books and articles, you need to think about how you will search for information.
Remember – much of your research will involve searching online catalogs for books, and searching print and electronic databases for magazine and journal articles. You cannot just ask a computer to find information, as you would ask a person. You’ll need to type keywords into the online catalog or the database.
What are keywords? Keywords are words or groups of words that you type into the search bars in online catalogs or electronic databases. When you have done this, it prompts the search engines of these resources to find books, articles, or other materials that include your keywords in the online records.
What keywords do you need to type? Obviously, words related to your chosen research topic. For example, if you want to find information on the topic, “organic gardening in the Southeast” what keywords might you type into a search line to find information? You might try these keywords: organic gardens and Southeastern United States, or, organic gardening and Southeastern states.
How do you find keywords for a topic? Think about your topic, and think about words that might be used to describe the topic. Look in print or online dictionaries and thesauruses to find words related to your topic. Most electronic databases, which are used for finding journal, newspaper, and magazine articles, will include online thesauruses, dictionaries, or subject guides to help you find related and similar words concerning your topic or various aspects of your topic.
REFINING YOUR SEARCH TERMS
Narrowing a topic: