1. Select a topic that genuinely interests you. Look at course readings, class notes, Google, Wikipedia, CQ Researcher or Credo Reference for initial ideas.
2. Consider the scope of your topic.
If it is too narrow, you might have trouble finding enough information.
If it too broad, you can be overwhelmed with information.
3. Turn your focused topic into a research question. It should be a question that will have a concrete, specific and measurable answer that has not already been definitively answered (you want to contribute something new to the discussion!).
Questions to guide the development of your research question:
Brainstorming keywords for your topic will help you refine your topic, find the most information about your topic and save you time by helping you search databases in a more efficient and systematic way.
(Why? Different authors will refer to the same concept in different ways. Having a comprehensive list of keywords to search will help you find more information about your topic in an efficient and systematic way!)
1. Pick out the main ideas in your research question. For example, the main ideas in this research question are in bold: “How does legalization of marijuana affect mental health rates in the United States?”
2. Take each of your main ideas and brainstorm as many synonyms, related words, acronyms, initialisms, and spelling variants as you can. For example, for "United States":
3. Do this for each of your main ideas. Searching all the variants you can come up with will give you a broader selection of relevant information. It might help to make a chart to keep track of which combinations you have searched for.
Another search strategy is to use subject terms or phrases. Subject terms are standardized word(s) that describe the main idea of an article or other source. In many databases, but not all, you can use subject terms or phrases to capture the different ways authors refer to the same concept. For example, in the database CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) you will find the following subject terms representing “legalization of marijuana”:
You can identify subject terms by looking at a source citation or abstract in a database, or under the Details tab in OneSearch. Subject terms vary by database, they are not always intuitive, and it is common to use both keywords and subject terms in constructing a search.
Like searching with keywords, it is a good idea to keep track of which combinations of subject terms you have searched.
Visit the Information Center for research assistance from 9am-6pm Monday-Thursday, 9am-5pm Friday and 1pm-5pm on Sunday. Staff are also available during library hours to assist with your check out, interlibrary loan, or tech support needs. View the Mansfield Library hours.
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The Mansfield Library provides a full suite of video tutorials to help you with topic selection, searching, citations, copyright and more.