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COMM 511 Introduction to Communication Theory: Research Skills Tips

From Question to Keyword

This one-minute video by Irma Minerva (2010) shows brainstorming for keywords from a research question.

Moving from a Research Question to a Search Strategy

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.

Find it @ PSU

If the article citation does not include links to the full text, click on the Find it @ PSU button to check availability. Find it @ PSU is the link to the full text article or the call number and location for the print article.

If the PSU Library does not hold the article online or in print, order it through Interlibrary Loan & Article Delivery.

Find it @ PSU

image of article accessed from Find It @ PSU from a database

A Question as a Search Statement

The video on the left shows the process of transforming a topic into keywords for a search. Below is a screen capture of how that search might look in an article searching database such as Academic Search Premiere.

Google Scholar

This video describes how to quickly access a full text article from a citation using Google Scholar.