1. Get Organized. Research can be time consuming so take a few minutes to get organized and think about what you are looking for. Do you need current or historical information, statistical data or facts?
2. Break your Topic down into Keywords or Concepts. Think about possible synonyms for those words and phrases. Many searches may work with a single key concept, but you will often have two or more.
3. Start broadly and narrow down as you go. Your first searches will give you a feel for what kind of information is available.
4. Scan the results of your search to see what kind of articles you retrieved. If you see a good article, look for additional keywords or even subject headings which have been attached to the article. Try those in your search.
5. Be flexible. You may need to broaden or narrow your search depending on the amount and kind of information you find.
Keeping track of your search
Keep track of your search and your results. Remember research is a process and you may try many things before you find what works best for your topic.
Keep track of your search terms and jot down other words you find while perusing the articles that result from your searches.
The "search history" option under the search box can also help with that.
Email, print, or save articles that might be useful for your research, even if you're not sure that you're going to use them.
Sample search topic
If your topic is:
The use of renewable energy to combat global warming
1. Identify keywords or phrases:
renewable energy global warming
2. Explore synonyms for your keywords/phrases
renewable energy, solar energy, wind power
global warming, climate change*, temperature change*
3. Use these terms in your search. Combine the synonyms with the word "or".
For example: renewable energy or wind power or solar energy
4. Make use of the Subject Headings option on the left of your screen to find appropriate subject headings for your topic and use them in a search
Adding a second concept
Remember to search in the advanced search mode
Enter your 1st keyword(s)/phrase(s) in the first line.
Your second concept in our example is global warming. Enter that key phrase and any synonyms in the second line of the search box. Your search results should then include both concepts somewhere in the record.
Reviewing your articles
Once you have collected some articles, take a closer look at them.
Read and review what you have. Do you have enough information to support your topic?
If you don't like what you have or you don't have enough good information, go back to your search. Try some new keywords or a different database.
Explore some of the subject headings from the articles that you do want to use.
If some of your articles have bibliographies you might want to look at some of the sources listed in those bibliographies.
If you're stuck -- ask a librarian for help.