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AAA Shared Resource Guide

The place to find commonly used LibGuide boxes. No more reinventing the wheel!

Background Information & Books

Before you can start any research on your topic, you must have a background knowledge of it. Books and websites can provide you with that knowledge.

This is important because:

  1. Background sources give you the language that people are using to discuss your topic. You will use this language when you start to search databases for scholarly articles and resources on the topic.
  2. This "pre-research" gives you a sense if your topic is focused enough. If your initial searches bring back so many results you can't even figure out what the language is, then you should consider narrowing your topic.

Remember, background information is always a starting point for research, not an ending point.

Search Strategies for Databases

Before you start entering any search terms, spend a few minutes trying to think of as many relevant terms and combinations of terms as you can. This will help you to avoid getting stuck in a rut with the first terms that come to mind.

If you need help in coming up with terms, you may want to try the "Thesaurus" or "Subject Headings" features in the database you've chosen.

Check out the "Help" or "Search Tips" to learn some of the search features specific to that database. Most databases provide similar features, but the methods may vary. Some common tricks:

  • truncation = To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an * (asterisk). For example, type comput* to find the words computes, computer, computing or computational.
  • searching a phrase = Typically, when a phrase is enclosed by double quotations marks, the exact phrase is searched. For example, "employee retention" searches for the two words as a phrase.
  • Boolean terms (AND, OR, NOT) = Use these terms to connect your keywords. They work best in all capital letters:
    • AND combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. For example, travel AND Europe finds articles that contain both travel and Europe.
    • OR combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. For example, college OR university finds results that contain either college or university.
    • NOT excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, television NOT cable finds results that contain television but not cable.
  • Putting it all together: You can combine these Boolean terms with truncation and phrase searching to create powerful search statements. For example, if you are interested in what motivates students in higher education, you might try a search that looks like: (college* OR universit* OR "higher education") AND (student* OR undergraduate* OR "graduate student*") AND motivat*

Try the databases' Advanced Search feature, which usually gives you the ability to search multiple fields (author, title, keyword, subject, etc) with one search and may offer additional ways to expand or limit your search.

If your first search strategy does not work, try another approach. Remember that you can also get help from the library. Check out the links below.

Forward and Backward Citation Chaining (Expanding Your Search Results)

Forward and Backward Citation Searching. To expand your research, and do a thorough literature review, you should do a forward and backward citation search on really relevant articles. Backward = review the bibliography of the article. Forward = Search for the article title in Google Scholar and/or Web of Science to see who has cited the article since it was published.

Citation Chaining

Citation chaining is the name for a process in which you use an information source to find other work that is cited within the first source (backwards chaining) or cites to the first source (forward chaining). 

Below is a YouTube video on how citation chaining works in Google Scholar. Keep in mind that you should never have to pay for an article while you are at IUPUI. See "Finding the Full-Text of an Article" for how to access Interlibrary Loan. In this video, look for a "fluff word" that the researcher uses when searching.

Topic Too Narrow or Too Broad

Your topic needs to be scalable to your paper. Make sure it isn’t too broad or too narrow. If you notice any of the following while searching for articles and books, you may need to refine your topic. 

Too Broad? Too Narrow?
can be summed up in one or two words difficult to figure out where you would locate information (e.g., data may not exist)
difficult to come up with a thesis statement hard to research because there is so little information (e.g., you only found 3 or 4 results in your searching)
hard to research because there is so much information (e.g., you found 1000s of hits in your searching)  

 

If your topic is too broad:

Apply journalistic question words to your topic to narrow your focus. (e.g., “Global Warming” > “Global Warming on reptiles in Australia” = what, where)

Who | What | Where | When | Why | How

If your topic is too narrow:

Remove one aspect of your topic and/or use the question words to back up a step.