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.
Sample search topic
If your topic is: The effects of global warming on parks
1. Identify keywords or phrases:
global warming parks
2. Explore synonyms for your keywords/phrases
global warming, climate change*, greenhouse gases
parks, recreation areas, forest
5. Make sure to put parenthesis "( ) " around the terms that are phrases.
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.
Put interesting articles into a "folder" so that you can return to them later to decide if you want to look at the entire article. Every record in a search results list will give you the option of adding that article to a folder. Remember that folder stays with you only during the current search session so be sure to check it and email or print anything from the folder that you want to keep before logging off.
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.