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How to Start Your Research

Tips and tools for starting your research and searching for information in library databases and catalogs.

In This Section

magnifying glass iconIn this section, you'll find help with:

Brainstorm Keywords

Before you start searching, take a few minutes to brainstorm some search terms.

Having a good list of search terms, or keywords, will make your searching so much easier! You'll have multiple options of words to try, if some don't seem as useful as others.

Because library databases aren't good at searching natural language (the way we speak and ask questions naturally), it's especially important to break down your topic or questions into keywords.

 

Use some basic questions to help you brainstorm keywords, or search terms, for your topic.

WHO
  • Who is involved? Who is affected?
  • Are there key figures related to your topic?
WHAT
  • What are the key issues and questions surrounding your topic?
WHEN
  • Are there key dates associated with your topic? When did major events related to your topic happen? 
  • Are you focused on a particular period of history?
WHERE
  • Is there a geographic location that is important to your topic? 
  • Can you focus your topic on a particular location?
HOW
  • How will you find out about your topic? Do you need primary sources?
  • Is there a particular methodology associated with the kind of research you'll be doing?
WHY
  • Why are you interested in your topic? Why should others be interested?

When you have a list of keywords, take a second pass through it and try to come up with synonyms or related terms.

Decide Where to Search

There are a few different places you can search for scholarly articles and other sources.

This brief tutorial walks through two different pathways for searching for articles--library databases and the library catalog.

Start Searching

Now that you have some search terms and know where to search, here's some more advice on:

Searching Library DatabasesSearching the Library Catalog