UNST High School Senior Inquiry: Plan Your Research

Research Plan Worksheet

Analyze your Search Strategy Tutorial

Analyze your Research Strategy Tutorial

Make a Research Plan

Now that you have a topic in mind and you know some of the basics of that topic, it's time to make a plan.  Planning your research will save you time and keep you organized.  

  1. List some questions you have about your topic.  Think back to the Who, What, Where, and When ideas you thought about while you were developing your topic.  What answers do you hope to find?
  2. For each question, consider what type of source you will use to help you answer the question.  Will you find it in a newspaper article?  Or a scientific study?  Or maybe a government website?
  3. Brainstorm keywords, or words you will use to search for each source.  Think broad and narrow (ex. sweatshirt vs. hoodie)  What words do experts use to describe your topic?  What words did you come across in the background information?  

Keep in mind, research does not go in a straight line!  You may find yourself asking MORE questions based on the information you find and needing MORE answers.  Modify your research plan as you go.

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.


  • 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.

Formulate Some Questions

This 3 minute video from McLaughlin Library explains how to brainstorm questions for your research plan.

What Types of Sources Will You Need?

This 3 minute video from Oviatt Library discusses the difference between newspaper, magazine, and scholarly journal articles, as well as books, reference and web sources. 

Brainstorm Keywords

This 2 minute video explains how to create effective keywords for searching the Portland State University Library.