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COMM 220 - Public Speaking: Search Strategies

Brainstorming Keywords from Your Topic

This quick tutorial will show you how to turn your topic into keywords that you can use in searching  library resources and the Web.

Where Should I Search?

Too Few Search Results

Try a  database for your topic. You may want to try searching in a  database that specializes in a certain subject like education or psychology. You might want to use a multidisciplinary database like Academic Search Premier or even Google Scholar. Be persistent and try several different databases.

Brainstorm search terms or keywords. Try changing the terms you use in your search. Brainstorming for keywords is helpful. By using a different term or synonym, you' could retrieve a different results list.

Using too many search terms. Each time you put in another search term with AND, you will retrieve fewer results. Start with a more general search with a few keywords, then add more terms or try different terms. 

Using too many limiters. Limiters (such as date and format) retrieve a more targeted results list, but overuse of limiters can end up with zero results. 

A topic that is too narrow. You may need to think more broadly about your topic. For example, if you are researching the impact of "Basque terrorism" on a specific town in Spain, broaden your search to just look at "Basque terrorism".  Also, you may need to break your topic down and search for different parts separately; for example, "Basque separatist movement" and  another search, the demographics of the Spanish town.

 

Too Many Search Results

Using the right search terms. Try changing the terms or keywords. Think of terms that are more specific. Make sure you are not using OR between terms that mean different things, for example women OR salary.

Using too few search terms. Each time you put in another search term with AND, you will retrieve fewer results. Start with a small number of keywords then add more terms or try different terms based on your results. 

Not Using limiters. Limiters, such as date and format, provide a more targeted results list. Look for the limiters in each database that meet your criteria.

Noting the default search options. By default, most databases search in the title, author field, abstract and subject terms associated with the article. Experiment with searching in just the title or in another field for targeted results.

A topic that is too broad. Think about a more focused aspect of your topic or the various angles of your topic, then make each perspective a separate search.