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BUS 3315: Research Paper

This guide contains resources and information to direct students in locating information needed for writing the research paper required in BUS 3315.

Find Your Keywords

Locating keywords that describe the key concepts in your research question is the first step in searching for articles to support your research.  Let’s walk through the steps to begin your research.


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  • Good research topics usually contain 2-4 concepts.
  • Topics with one concept will usually retrieve way too many results.
  • Topics with too many concepts may limit your results too much.




Synonyms and Related Words

Databases search for the exact word(s) you type into the search boxes.  If authors use a different word to describe the concept, you won’t see those articles in your results. That is why it is important to know synonyms for your concepts.

  • Ask yourself, "What other words could the author use to describe this concept?
  • Be careful with phrases. If you search with a phrase, think of alternative ways to describe the phrase and search with that as well.
  • Create a master list of alternative terms for your concepts.  Include: synonyms, antonyms, spelling variations, brand names, singular and plural forms of words, broad/narrow terms
  • Spell out abbreviations
  • Avoid words that imply relationships (compare, contrast, causation) or imply judgement (best/worst, pro/con, advantages/disadvantages)

Pick databases that matches the subject matter of your chosen topic.

  • Databases can be multidisciplinary, or they can specialize in specific subject areas. There are nursing databases, education databases, psychology databases, etc.
  • Search more than one database for a comprehensive search on a topic. Although there may be some overlap, each database contains different journals and provides different results.

How you connect your search terms together can change the outcome of your search. 

  • A database needs instruction--tell it what to do! 
  • Databases use the Boolean Operators AND, OR, NOT to combine search terms.
  • Most databases automatically use AND.  This only retrieves articles that contain all of the keywords. 


Librarians are also great resources to ask if you are stuck on which database to search for your topic!

Explore the database and see what's there.

Remember, your initial searches are a guess about how the author has described the topic in the title and abstract. You are trying to match your keywords to their words. 

1. Run some exploratory searches in the database using different keywords from your list.

2. Browse your search results.

3. Look for relevant articles.

4. Look for subject headings.  Most databases assign subject headings for each article. These indicate the main topics of the article. If there is an appropriate subject heading for one of your concepts use it to search.

5. Revise, Revise, Revise. Initial searches can often be improved. Evaluate your results and then search again using alternative keywords or appropriate subject headings found in your initial results.


Setting Up the Search:

1. As a general rule, start with broad searches. Cast a wide net and explore your results. After you have determined the best keywords/subject headings, start to limit your search.

  • Start with only 2 of your concepts. Prioritize your concepts and begin with the two most important concepts.
  • Don't use any limiters initially (date restrictions, peer-reviewed, etc.)

2. Most databases have multiple search boxes near the top of the page.

  • Enter each of your core concepts separately.
  • If there are no individual search boxes, look for the Advanced Search option.

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