Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Identify Keywords that Describe Your Topic

Finding information on a topic for a research assignment can sometimes be frustrating and time consuming. A crucial step in successfully and efficiently locating relevant information to help answer your research question or thesis, is to extract key words from that question/thesis. A simple way to find keywords is to use a "concept chart." This is a visual tool to analyze the concepts of your research question so that keywords can be identified. Try using a thesaurus, dictionary and or specialized encyclopedia for locating alternate terminology. Then insert them into a chart as below and use the AND search operator between each set of concepts to create a search. OR is used to combine synonyms, and parentheses are used to group them.

Example research paper topic:

Compare "Contingency Management" and "Theory Z" styles in the United States.

Break this question down into it's main topics and find alternate terminology:
Compare "Contingency Management" / and "Theory Z" / styles / in the United States.

Concept 1: "contingency management"
AND Concept 2: "theory Z"
AND Concept 3: "United States" OR America

Possible search query: "contingency management" and "theory z" and ("United States" or America)

Tips for creating a search query:

  • Use double quotes around two or more words to search for an exact phrase.
  • Try mixing and matching your keywords to create the right search for the resource you are using.
  • Look for options to limit the search to scholarly or peer-reviewed journals.
  • Look at a relevant article or book list of references to find related resources.
For More Information: Selecting Keywords and Using Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT) (print version) and Additional Search Techniques]

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