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ESL 082: Upper-intermediate Writing Skills (Koenke): How to Use the Library

Learn More About the Research Process

Search Strategies Self-Quiz

How to Search

Getting Started on a Research Project

Before you start searching the library for resources, you'll want to think about:

  1. How can you turn an idea for a research topic into a research question?
  2. What are some keywords you can use from your research question?
  3. How can you use those keywords to create an effective search query?
  4. What types of sources are you hoping to find and how might that impact where you look?

Turning a Topic into a Question:

Before starting on a research project, you'll need to have a topic in mind. However, a topic isn't enough to make for an effective search or an effective research project. You'll want to develop your topic into a research question.

Each research project, paper, and presentation has its own set of requirements that your professor has specifically designed, so always check your assignment for specific details. But in general, a research question:

  • meets the assignment requirements
  • is interesting to you
  • is focused, arguable, clear, and concise
  • includes details and aspects of a topic to make it narrow and unique, such as
    • Who? Focusing on a particular demographic or group of people
    • What? Focusing on a particular thing or concept
    • When? Focusing on a specific time period or range
    • Where? Focusing on a particular location or type of location
    • Why?  Focusing on cause/effect, impact, correlations, etc.

Example:

If I'm doing a research paper on the flu shot, I would want to think through my topic and apply specific aspects to turn my topic into a research question such as:

  • Who: elderly patients
  • What: flu shot
  • When: past decade
  • Where? United States
  • Why? effectively prevent flu; impact on number of flu cases 

My research question could be something like: In the past decade, how has the flu shot impacted the number of flu cases among elderly patients in the United States?

Pull Main Concepts from your Research Question

Library databases use keyword searching where you connect main concepts together into a search query to tell the database what you're hoping to find. Because of this, we'll want to pull the main concepts from your research question to start with some initial keywords.

For example, let's say your research question is:

In the past decade, how has the flu shot impacted the number of flu cases among elderly patients in the United States.

The main concepts would be:

  • flu shot
  • flu cases
  • elderly patients
  • United States

Brainstorm Additional Keywords

Once you've identified the key concepts, it's helpful to brainstorm additional keywords. You may need to do some background research on your research question before you can identify additional keywords.There are three main ways to brainstorm keywords based on key concepts:

  1. Look for synonyms. Synonyms are terms that mean the same thing as your original key concepts:
    • "influenza vaccination" is a synonym for "flu shot"
    • "influenza cases" is a synonym for "flu cases"
    • "aging populations" is a synonym for "elderly patients"
    • "America" is a synonym for "United States"
  2. Look for narrower terms. Narrower terms are specific examples or types of your key concepts:
    • "inactivated influenza vaccines" are a type of "flu shot"
    • "Influenza A" is a type of "flu case"
    • "retirees" is an example of a specific group of "elderly patients"
    • "Kansas" is an example of a state in the "United States"
  3. Look for broader terms. Broader terms are bigger categories that your key concepts can fit into.
    • "flu shot" fits into the category of "vaccinations"
    • "flu case" is the outcome of a "laboratory confirmation"
    • "elderly patients" fits into the category of "adults"
    • "United States" fits into the category of "developed countries"

We started off with four keywords, and now we have sixteen!

Connecting Keywords with Search Operators

Once you've brainstormed keywords for your research question, think about what operators you may use. Operators are a way of combining keywords to get the best results from your search.

Search Tips

Ampersand by Cristina from the Noun Project  AND    Use AND when you want to find articles or other information that contains both/all keywords

         flu shot AND flu cases AND elderly patients

toggles by Curve from the Noun Project  OR    Use OR when you want to find articles or other information that contains at least one of the keywords

          influenza vaccination OR flu shot

  Quotation Marks   Put quotes around phrases when you want that phrase to be found in that exact order   Quote By Consumer Financial Protection Bureau   

          "influenza vaccination"

What are your assignment requirements?

Refer back to your assignment for any requirements of the types of sources you are supposed to find (ex. 3 peer-reviewed articles published in the last 10 years OR 1 website, 1 book, and 2 articles, etc.)

What are you trying to find?

In order to answer your research question for your project, you may need to break your research question down into a few smaller questions. For example, you'll want to know the flu shot rate among elderly populations, you'll also want to find something that talks about the efficacy rate of the flu shot preventing flu cases, you'll also want to know the number of confirmed flu cases among elderly populations. You might have to find multiple sources to piece together enough evidence to attempt to answer your research question.

Where might that information be found?

Think about the goal of what you're hoping to find and ask yourself:

  • Who might be publishing this type of information?
  • In which format might they be publishing this information?
  • Where might you have access to that type of information
    • The library provides access to materials that would otherwise require a subscription fee, including scholarly articles, books, e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines, statistics, videos, and more. Use the box below to learn how to search the different tools. 
    • Google gives access to free/public content

If you're looking for statistics, you'll want to use a statistic database or search for websites by organizations who report national statistics. If you're looking for scientific studies comparing the rates of flu shots and confirmed flu cases, you'll want to search for peer-reviewed scholarly articles in the library catalog. 

Advanced Search Strategies

Where to Search

What does the Search Everything Tool on fhsu.edu/library Search?

With the power of one search box, the main search on the library homepage will include results from Forsyth Library's Collections (all of the physical resources inside the library) and multiple research databases (the majority of the electronic resources to which the library provides access). There are tabs at the top to Search Everything, or limit your search to Articles, Digital Archives, or Books and More.

 

Use Search Everything if ...

  • You are looking for a specific article title, book, or author
     
  • You want a variety of resource types. Among the results you'll find:
    • peer-reviewed articles
    • physical books
    • ebooks
    • newspaper articles
    • reference entries (encyclopedias)
    • videos
    • government documents
    • And other resource types
       
  • You are just starting your research 

 

Using the Advanced Search

To help you build stronger search queries, click on Advanced Search to connect multiple keywords into your search query and have the option to filter your results by material type and date if you have any of those requirements for your resources. (Click on the image to see the search query and results)

 

Filtering Your Results

Once you've done an initial search, use the Filter Results sidebar to apply various filters to tell the database exactly what you're looking for.

You can apply filters, allowing you to tell the database to show only the results that meet your criteria, such as:

  • peer-reviewed journals;
  • materials that are only available online (Full Text Online);
  • a specific resource type you want to find (article, book, newspaper, etc.);
  • narrow by publication date

Make sure you explore the filters available (hint: you may need to click "Show More" to see all of the filter types and options that can apply to your results.

Using Research Databases from the A-Z List

When you search in Research Databases, you are searching in a smaller, more concentrated pool of resources that are organized around a particular subject area or resource type. 

From the A-Z List, use the subject dropdown to select your major or the subject for your class for recommended databases.

If you're looking for a particular resource type (ex. newspapers or encyclopedias), use the Database Type dropdown menu to narrow the list of databases down to databases that only contain those particular types of resources.

To get to a database, click directly on the blue, hyperlinked title listed on the page.

 

Use a Research Database if ...

  • You need specialized information within your academic discipline or subject area.
    • This could vary based on your major, the class for which you're doing a research assignment, or your research topic
       
  • You want a specific type of resource, such as
    • Newspapers
    • Encyclopedia/Reference (for background research)
    • Videos
    • Etc.
       
  • You want more tools and features to search for resources and filter your results

 

Why use a Research Database?

Using Effective Search Strategies in Google

There are a few types of resources that you may need to search outside of the library to find. For example, if you're looking for a website resource, you'll need to use Google or a similar search engine to find your resource and evaluate it's credibility. You can apply many of the search strategies we've learned when you're searching Google. Use the tips below to help bring back more relevant results:

"quotations around a phrase"

Ex: "influenza vaccination"

Just like when you're searching in library databases, by putting quotations around a phrase or multiple words, you're telling the search engine that you want to see those words in that order.

This brings back fewer, but more relevant results.

site:URL

Ex: site:mayoclinic.org vaccination

Use a site search to use Google's search engine to search for content on a particular website. 

For example, by searching the fhsu.edu URL in addition to a keyword, I make sure that my results are related to FHSU instead of any other university. 

.org or .edu or .gov

Ex. influenza vaccination statistics .gov

By specifying the end of the URL Google responds with results that more closely match that type of website. For example, maybe I was wanting to find statistics relating to influenza vaccinations, I might find that data on a government website like the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

filetype:pdf

Ex. influenza vaccination statistics filetype:pdf

You can tell Google what type of file you're looking for in order to search for uploaded documents relating to your keyword search. The following file types might be helpful when:

  • PDF - reports, publications, handouts, fliers, or other finalized materials
  • PPT - slideshow presentations (from conferences, lectures, etc.)
  • XLS - spreadsheets, budgets, etc.
  • DOC - editable templates or worksheets

 

Reading Research Articles

Once you've found a peer-reviewed article, it may look a little different than anything else you've ever seen before. For tips on reading and comprehending the information in a scholarly article, watch the video below: