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