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Research: Step by Step

Develop a Search Strategy

Now that you have your topic developed, we can start thinking about how to find resources to support the topic.

  1. Start by writing your topic down. (Example: How does social media affect body image?)
  2. Pick out the two or three main keywords from your topic (Example: social media, body image). These will be what you use to start searching
  3. Think about potential synonyms or similar ideas for your keywords. You can use these if your first search doesn't give you many good results. Some topics won't have obvious synonyms, but think of ways to expand your search if necessary.

Where Do I Search?

Next, you'll want to think about what you're searching for. Do you need books? Background information? Articles? Depending on what you're searching for, you'll want to use different tools.

Quick Search is a great place to start. This is the search box on our library homepage. It will search our book collection, our ebook collection, as well as some of our databases of scholarly articles. 

Need an introduction to a topic? Try Gale Virtual Reference Library. This resource collects reference material such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, and general guides that will provide an introduction to a topic, but generally doesn't go in depth on scholarly research.

Need articles? You'll want to check out our library databases. We have a lot of different databases specializing in different areas. Some will be more helpful than others for your research, so be sure to use the options to narrow down based on topic or resource type.

Academic Search Complete is always a great database to start with, because it collects articles in every scholarly area. But always check out other databases as well, because they might have that perfect article. Here are some of our most commonly used databases:

Once you've determined what you need, let's take a closer look at searching in Step 3: Find Books.