Once you've chosen (or been assigned) 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 - you need to make a research plan.
Remember - much of your research will involve searching online catalogs for books, and searching electronic databases for magazine and journal articles. You cannot just ask a computer to find information, as you would ask a person. You will need to think about your topic, and then break the topic down into words or word phrases that describe the topic - that is, you will need to think of KEYWORDS to use in searching.
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.
For example, if you want to find information on the topic "assisting homeless people in the United States," what keywords might you type into a search line to find information? You might try these keywords:
How do you create keywords to be used in your searches?
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.
Narrowing a topic:
Let's say you choose to write on the social problems topic of HOMELESSNESS. Homelessness is a very broad topic - that is, you can find a lot of information on this topic. So how do you go about narrowing the topic so as to avoid information overload - finding too much information for your needs?
Narrow your research topic by developing keyword combinations, which will limit the results you retrieve when searching.You do this by separating keywords or keyword phrases with connectors; that is, with AND, OR, or NOT.
Broadening a topic:
Let's just say you want to write a research paper on the topic "Attitudes towards homeless people in Jackson, Tennessee." You probably won't find much material on this; your topic is too narrow. If you really want to write about people's attitudes toward the homeless, you will have to broaden your topic.
How do you do this? Change your keywords to broaden your search and maybe obtain more information.