This is the "Search Strategy Worksheet" page of the "Search Strategies" guide.
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Search Strategies   Tags: keywords, search_strategies, searching, toolbox  

A worksheet to help you work your way through research databases
Last Updated: Oct 1, 2014 URL: http://guides.smu.edu/strategy Print Guide RSS Updates
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Search Strategies

Developing a Focus: Refining your Research Topic

  •  Start broad and then narrow your topic depending on what you find interesting.
  • Use subject encyclopedias and other reference materials to get background information and to find authoritative sources through their bibliographies.
  • Check the library catalog to find books on your topic, then read appropriate chapters and use the index to locate more specific topics.
  • Write as you go in order to get a clearer idea of what you want to say and to find gaps in evidence that need to be filled through additional research.

Developing a Search Strategy

What is your research question?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

List the key words/concepts from your research question.  Key words do not include articles or prepositions. Write them below and then think of words that are similar in meaning.

Concept 1)                                         

Synonyms:                                           OR                                        OR                                    

Concept 2)                                         

Synonyms:                                           OR                                        OR                                    

Concept 3)                                           

Synonyms:                                           OR                                        OR                                    

 

Combining Concepts

And

AND

Narrows your search.  Use with different concepts.

All search terms must be in the record.

Or

OR

Expands your search.  Use with synonyms, such as those you listed above.

Any of the terms will be in the record.

Not

NOT

Do not use without consulting a librarian because you may eliminate useful results.  It is better to use AND to narrow your search.


Truncation

The star * is the truncation symbol for most research databases.
Use it to find all words that start with those letters.
This is especially helpful for plural forms of a word.
Trucation functions much like a Boolean "OR," as described above.
So, immigra* finds immigrant or immigrants or immigration, etc.

 


Searching on Their Terms

Lock & Key

Key words unlock your search.  Use keywords to find materials that look good. 

Then keep track of assigned subject headings that correspond with your concepts.  

Search on their subject terms.  These subject descriptors often will be different in each database.

 

Database:                                                                    

Concepts Subject Descriptors
1
2
3

 

Database:                                                                    

Concepts Subject Descriptors
1
2
3

 

Database:                                                                    

Concepts Subject Descriptors
1
2
3

 

Reminders

  • Ask a librarian whenever I would like assistance.  Remember the 15 minute rule.
  • More than 150 results is too many.  Refine your search.
  • Truncation can be tricky ?*! - Truncate before the endings may diverge.
  • We can probably get materials not owned by SMU, but it may take time.
  • Start researching early.
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