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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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.
Pick databases that matches the subject matter of your chosen topic.
How you connect your search terms together can change the outcome of your search.
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.
2. Most databases have multiple search boxes near the top of the page.
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