2. Consider the scope of your topic. If it is too narrow, you might have trouble finding enough information. If it is too broad, you can be overwhelmed with information.
Think about your assignment prompt while determining the scope of your topic. It is important to consider the size of the assignment and the length of time you have to complete it in thinking about scope.
3. Turn your focused topic into a research question. Know that your research question may change slightly depending on what sorts of resources you find. While you should have a topic or question in mind, allow the sources you find, along with your interests, to help shape and refine your topic further.
Questions to guide the development of your research question:
Is it focused enough to be covered in my paper or project?
Is there enough literature available on this topic?
What is the question that my research is answering?
Am I genuinely interested in this topic?
Is my topic going to be new and interesting to my audience?
Brainstorming keywords 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 relevant information.)
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. Consider making a chart to keep track of which combinations of keywords you have searched for.
4. Know that there is no such thing as a perfect search. Searching is a process, so having a list of potential keywords will help you begin your research. You’ll find that different combinations of keywords will bring up different results in different databases. You can still learn something from every search you perform, so know that this list of keywords can continue to grow throughout your research process.
You can also use what you learn from searching to redefine your research topic or question.
5. Several other specific search techniques can help you use your brainstormed keywords. Take a look at:
Chat with a Librarian
Use the Chat in the lower right corner of library webpages, from 10am-4pm Monday-Friday during fall semester. Submit questions using the Email a Librarian link outside of those hours.
We will respond to messages within 24-48 hours Monday-Friday.
Follow us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram