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Moving from a Research Question to a Search Strategy in 4 Steps

Moving from a research question to an effective search strategy involves breaking down the question into its Core Concepts, brainstorming Keywords, and then constructing an effective Search Strategy. You can do this in 4 steps.

1. Articulate your research question

Is union representation good for public employees in Oregon?

2. Break down your research question into its core concepts.

  • Union Representation
  • Public Employees
  • Oregon

3. Now list alternative ways of describing these concepts.

Your list can include broader, narrower, and related concepts.

Core Concept Brainstorm
Union Representation: Collective Bargaining labor union labor dispute SEIU
Public Employees: workers state worker employee staff
Oregon: Pacific Northwest Washington United States Portland

4. Create multiple search strategies by combining words from your concept brainstorm list.

  • Union AND employee AND portland
  • (Labor Union OR collective bargaining) AND state work* AND oregon
  • Etc.

Tips

  • Use truncation (an * at the root of a word to find different word forms. For example, librar* will find libraries, librarian, librarians, etc. 
  • Use parentheses and the OR operator to "nest" your search--different terms/phrases that represent the same concept.
  • Use quotation marks for phrase searching.
  • Use Boolean operators to connect search terms:
    • OR -- finds results with either or both terms -- it is used to broaden your search.
    • AND -- finds results with both terms -- it is used to narrow your search.

Acknowledgement: The content in this box was based off of Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh's work at Georgia State University Library.

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