Before you dive in, take a moment to set yourself up for research success!
Be sure to read through the three steps outlined on this page and watch the video, "Searching Databases with Keywords."
I also recommend using this research log to keep track of the keywords and sources you identify along the way.
Identify keywords that capture the main concepts you want to research.
If I start with this research topic and questions:
My starting keywords might be:
|Key Concept 1:||Key Concept 2:||Key Concept 3:||Key Concept 4:|
|genetic modification of food crops||benefits||consequences||safety|
|Synonyms/ Related Ideas||Synonyms/ Related Ideas||Synonyms/ Related Ideas||Synonyms/ Related Ideas|
Use a variety of search terms and look for the terminology of the field and key concepts as you go. Keep track of the new words you find!
Information is created for different purposes and audiences.
(Click on image to enlarge)
As shown in the image above, information is created, recorded, and distributed various different mediums at different times.
The event occurs and…
Within minutes or hours - you can find info on Social media platforms – such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc.
Good for: short personal reactions, opinion, announcements
Within hours, a day – you can find info in Newspapers, news sites, TV, Radio – such as cnn.com, BBC radio, New York Times, etc.
Good for: current or local info, facts, viewpoints, breaking news
Within a week to a month – you can find info in Magazines or Trade journals – such as Time, People Magazine, Wired, Education Week, etc.
Good for: summaries of info, some analysis for general public or specific profession
Within 6 to 8 months later and continuing – you can find info in Peer-Reviewed scholarly journals - such as like Nature, Journal of American Medical Association, etc.
Good for: deep analysis of specific topics in academic research
Within 1 year later and continuing – you can find info in Books and Films – such as non-fiction, biographies, documentaries, etc.
Good for: thorough, comparative coverage of a topic history, complexity
Within 2 years later and continuing – you can find info in Reference Sources – such as encyclopedias, textbooks, atlases, manuals, etc.
Good for: broad overviews, key issues, statistics, topic specialized vocabulary
Image source: all images here created by GRC librarians
You've identified useful search terms, or keywords, for your topic, and you've thought about where to look for the info you need.
Use these tips and tricks to search effectively in library databases:
When you search in library databases:
Keep searches simple using basic search words and phrases rather than natural language and sentences.
Let library databases help you:
This video uses the sample research question: "Does bilingualism impact the reading skills of teenagers?
While that question is not on your list, this video offers a very useful "think aloud" of the research process - from identifying keywords on a topic, brainstorming additional keywords, and using those search terms effectively in library databases.