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ENGL 131 O: Composition: Exposition: Search Strategy Tips

Research Sequence

Design Search Strategy

Your assignment:
Develop a research paper exploring rituals and norms.

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 | Web of Science]
    • You may need to explore a subject over a period of time
      [ For example: 5 years | 20 years | 1960s | 19th Century | 20th Century ]

      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 question may evolve and change over time. Sometimes using a format to phrase your question helps: I’m studying [Topic] Social Media Impact to investigate [Question] How social media influences attitudes and behavior? in order to understand [Significance/Rationale] the role networking through social media plays into our lives. This structure gives you a way to keep your question narrow, identifying just the area that you are studying. The question usually begins with why/what/how, etc.

  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

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

      • Population -gender (men, women), age (children/teens, adults, elderly), groups (artist, educators, clergy, ethnic/racial groups, etc.): 
      • Geography - towns, cities, states, countries, regions:
      • Time Period - current, decade, 20th Century, ancient:

    • Broader terms: (Allow you to explore the broader context of your topic. Good if you're having difficulty finding sources)

  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:

    • cultural norms AND social mobility (narrows your search, both terms 'cultural norms' and 'social mobility' must appear)
    • blacks OR African-Americans (broadens your search, one of the terms must appear. Good for use with synonyms.)
    • norms AND (African-Americans OR blacks) (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: cultur* will also find culture, cultural, culturally, cultured, cultures.

      ritual AND cultur*

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

Change Database Language

Some databases allow you to change the language.

Notice the range of language options for this database


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