A research project can be defined as any number of things:
Regardless of your specific assignment, here are some basic steps to follow.
Figuring this out now will save you a lot of time and effort later.
These words connect keywords or concepts logically to retrieve relevant articles, books, and other resources. There are three Boolean Operators:
Venn diagram of the AND connector
Example: The result list will include resources that include both keywords -- "distracted driving" and "texting" -- in the same article or resource, represented by in the purple shaded area in the middle where the two circles overlap.
Venn diagram of the OR connector
Example: The result list will include resources that include the keyword "texting" or the keyword "cell phone" or both keywords.
Venn diagram of the NOT connector
Example: The result list will include all resources that contain the term "cars" (green area) but will exclude any resource that includes the term "motorcycles" (pink area) even though the term car may be included in the resource.
A library database searches for keywords throughout the entire resource record including the full-text of the resource, subject headings, tags, bibliographic information, etc.
|Concept 1||Concept 2||Concept 3|
|distracted driving||traffic accidents||texting|
|distractions||car accidents||text messaging|
Example: The keyword list above was developed to find resources that discuss how texting while driving results in accidents. Notice that there are synonyms (texting and "text messaging"), related terms ("cell phones" and texting), and spelling variations ("cell phones" and cellphones).
Example 1: In EBSCO's Academic Search Ultimate, clicking on the "Subject Terms" tab at the top of the search screen provides access to the entire subject heading list used in the database. It also allows a search for specific subject terms.
Example 2: In many databases (in this case EBSCO's Academic Search Ultimate) a subject term can be incorporated into a keyword search by clicking the down arrow next to "Select a Field" and selecting "Subject Terms" from the dropdown list. Also, notice how subject headings are listed below the resource title, providing another strategy for discovering subject headings used in the database and for particular topics.
When a search term is more than one word, enclose the phrase in quotation marks to retrieve more precise and accurate results. Using quotation marks around a term will search it as a "chunk," searching for those particular words together in that order within the text of a resource.
TIP: In some databases, neglecting to enclose phrases in quotation marks will insert the AND Boolean connector between each word resulting in unintended search results.
Truncation provides an option to search for a root of a keyword in order to retrieve resources that include variations of that word. This feature can be used to broaden search results, although some results may not be relevant. To truncate a keyword, type an asterisk (*) following the root of the word.
For example these truncated search terms will retrieve:
Library databases provide a variety of tools to limit and refine search results. Limiters provide the ability to limit search results to resources having specified characteristics including:
In most databases, the limiting tools are located in the left panel of the results page.
Each resources in a library database is stored in a record. In addition to the full-text of resources, searchable Fields are attached to the record; these typically include:
Incorporating Fields into your search can assist in focusing and refining search results by limiting the results to those resources that include specific information in a particular field. In most databases, selecting the Advanced Search option will allow for easier searching of specific fields.
Example: In the Advanced Search option of the Lindell Library's main search, clicking the down arrow under the "Search Index" label provides a list of fields that can be searched within the library. Select the field and enter your terms or information in the text box to the right of the field selection to use this feature.
These are short, commonly used words (articles, prepositions, and pronouns) that are automatically dropped from a search.
In library databases, a stop word will not be searched even if it is included in a phrase enclosed in quotation marks. In some instances, a word will be substituted for the stop word to allow for the other words in the phrase to be searched in proximity to one another within the text of the resource.
If you searched company of America, your result list will include these variations:
Creating a plan before searching for sources makes the process more efficient and successful.
What is your research question or thesis statement? What do you want to accomplish in your research assignment?
Thesis: Distracted driving has contributed to an increase in traffic accidents. Texting while driving should be banned in all 50 states.
Describe the concepts you need present in a resource for it to be helpful to you. Write down keywords describing each concept. Because the full-text of most resources is searched, consider listing out synonyms or related terms.
Concept 1: distracted driving
Concept 2: accidents
Concept 3: texting
This will ensure that all the terms describing a concept are included in your search.
Concept 2: accident* OR fatal*
Concept 3: text* OR cellphone OR "cell phone"
This will ensure that all of your concepts are included in the same resource.
"distracted driving" AND accident* OR fatal* AND text* OR cellphone OR "cell phone"
Enclose terms of two or more words with quotation marks, utilize truncation, and try different combinations of concepts and synonyms to see what works best.
Search 1: "distracted driving" AND (accident* OR fatal*) AND (text* OR "cell phone")
Search 2: "distracted driving" AND (accident OR fatal*) AND (text* OR "cell phone" OR cellphone)
If at first you don't succeed, try and try again! Or, ask a librarian for help! You can find our contact information and FAQs here.
Check the assignment, or ask your professor, to find out which style you should use.
No matter where your information is from, whether a scholarly database or even your personal interview with a source, it's important to document it thoroughly. Using a consistent style reassures your professor, and anyone else who reads your paper or sees your presentation, that your information and opinions are trustworthy.