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Research Paper Tips

Developing a Search Strategy

1. Choose a topic.

2. Turn your topic into a research question. To help formulate your research question, ask yourself:

  • What do you already know about the topic?
  • What you do you want to know about the topic

3. Choose keywords from your research question. Keywords are usually the main ideas or concepts in your research question.

4. Find synonyms for your keywords. Synonyms give you more options for search terms.

To find more synonyms or descriptors you can: 1) use a thesaurus, 2) use the database's thesaurus either online or in print format, 3) look at descriptors or subject terms on a citation/abstract, or 4) Ask A Librarian at Columbia College Chicago.

5. Create a search expression by combining your search terms with Boolean Operators. 

6. Start searching! Use your keywords and synonyms as search terms in databases and book catalogs.