ENGL 127 Research Writing: Social Sciences (Wilber)

The Podcast Project: For students enrolled in English 127 with Ari Wilber

Getting Started

I recommend two steps to get started on your research project.

Step 1: Start with what you know. Use a Topic Map to chart out key players, issues, terms and more.

Step 2: Use key words from your Topic Map as search terms to find academic encyclopedia (reference) articles on your topic. Use reference articles to build an understanding of your topic: who is involved, what are the issues, why is this happening, (when) historical context, where is this happening, and how is it being addressed?

Mining for Keywords in Reference


Gathering and using keywords

Keywords are search terms related to your topic.

You use keywords to search library tools or the web. Keywords are search terms that describe the specific concepts or issues of your assignment theme and/or topic. Here are a few tips about using keywords:

  • Put phrases in quotes: "juvenile justice"

  • Keywords have synonyms and related terms: for example, for imprisonment try: prison, incarceration, sentence, jail, "juvenile justice system," "federal prison," etc.

  • Combine keywords with Boolean operators "AND" and "OR" to get more relevant results.

    • Use "AND" to combine terms and focus your search (women AND crime)

    • Use "OR" to combine terms and broaden your search (juveniles OR youth OR teenagers)

  • Search for multiple forms of a root word (truncate): teen* = teens or teenagers

  • Tip: Look for suggested keywords at the ends of reference articles, in the "Related Terms," "Cross-References" and "See Also" sections. 

Be sure to keep track of the keywords you find in reference and other sources! Add them to your topic map!

Source: "Boolean Operators" by Emily Wixson, Standard YouTube license