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Research Guides

Design Search Strategy

Your assignment:
Develop a research project focusing on issues impacting Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

One of the more important processes in conducting research is designing a search strategy. You should use your search strategy when using library search tools/databases.  The following are things to consider in designing your strategy:

  1. Analyze your topic
    • You may need to find information in different kinds of sources
      [ Books | Journals | Newspapers | Magazines | Media (images, video, sound recordings)]
    • You may need to use more than one library tool (database, etc.)
      [ Some examples: Sociological Abstract | Academic Search Complete | America: History & Life ]
    • You may need to explore a subject over a period of time
      [ For example: 5 years | 20 years | 1960s | 19th Century | 20th Century |Current ]

      It is important to clarify what you are interested in finding out about your topic; familiarize yourself with the key issues and context.  Begin by creating a research question.

      The research question may evolve and change over time. Sometimes using a format to phrase your question helps: I’m researching _____ to investigate _____ in order to understand _____. This structure give you a way to keep your question narrow, identifying just the area that you are studying and helping your reader position the question within a field.

  2. Select Keywords
    • Create a list of Related Terms. Another way to express this, is to create a list of synonyms for the important concepts in or associated with your topic. Example topic question: How did the films/movies produced in Japan and America reflect their respective attitudes about the bomb/nuclear energy?

    • Narrower terms: (Good for limiting your search, excluding irrelevant information, or adding focus to your search)

      Atomic bomb, economic impacts, social impacts, world war, nuclear energy, environmental issues, morality, films, movies, nuclear weapons
      • Population -gender (men, women), age (children/teens, adults, elderly), groups (artist, educators, clergy, ethnic/racial groups, etc.):  Japanese or Japanese Americans
      • Geography - towns, cities, states, countries, regions: United States, Japan
      • Time Period - current, decade, 21st Century, ancient:  20th Century
    • Broader terms: (Allow you to explore the broader context of your topic. Good if you're having difficulty finding sources)
      Atomic, Human Rights, Environment, Health, Asian Americans, War, Energy, Nuclear, Media, Political

  3. Create a Search Query

    Many of our databases or search tools require that you use AND or OR to combine multiple terms/keywords in a search.

    See examples below:

    • Atomic bomb AND Japan  AND films (narrows your search, all the terms and 'Atomic bomb, Japan, and films' must appear)
    • Atomic OR Nuclear (broadens your search, one of the terms must appear. Good for use with synonyms.)
    • Japan AND (Atomic bomb OR Nuclear bomb) (combines connectors AND/OR together in a search)
    • Use a technique called truncation with the * symbol to search additional forms of a word when using a search tool or database.

      Example: politic* will also find politic, political, politically, politician, politicians, politics.

      nuclear energy AND politic*

      Be aware that the truncation symbol may vary depending on the database (*,#,?,!) are the most common.


Harry Murphy's picture
Harry Murphy

Odegaard Undergraduate Library
Box 353080, Room M-112

4060 George Washington Lane
Seattle 98195-3080

Office Hours (6/25-8/15)
Odegaard Writing & Research Cntr. (OWRC 121):
Thu 3-5
Fri 9:30-11:30

For American Ethnic Studies subject related appointments (OUGL M112):
Mon 11-Noon
Tue 11-Noon
Wed 11-Noon

Phone: 206-616-5296
Skype Contact: hmaurice56

Class Documents

Research Question Construction Example