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Linguistics Research Guide

Welcome! On these pages you'll find resources for Linguistics at the Mansfield Library and the University of Montana.

Library Databases

Use your NetID and password to access library databases off campus.


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!

1. Pick out the main ideas in your research question. For example, the main ideas in this research question are in bold: “What phrases are commonly used by teenagers but misunderstood by adults around them?"

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 teenagers:

  • teens
  • adolescents
  • youths
  • juveniles
  • minors

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: 

Finding a Descriptive Grammar

The Mansfield Library has grammar books for multiple languages, although we have more in some languages than others.

To find a grammar book in the Library Catalog you will want to do a KEYWORD search for your language and the term "grammar." For example you could do a search for "Russian" AND "grammar" and you would come up with 58 results. Conversely, a search for "Crow" AND "grammar" brings up 5 results, only 3 of which are grammar books.

To supplement what is available at the library, you can search in the same manner in WorldCat, which is a worldwide catalog. A search there for "Russian" and "grammar" results in over 9000 items. Narrowing your search to include the word "Descriptive" helps filter your sources into something more managable.

Developing a Research Question

1. Select a topic that interests you and do some pre-research. Look at course readings and class notes. Find information using Google, Wikipedia, CQ Researcher, or Credo Reference if you need ideas.  

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. 

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?

  •  How do you determine if a resource has quality, useful information?