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Research Help

This guide will help you at all stages of the research process, from choosing a topic to citing your sources.

Create a Search Strategy

Once you have your topic (thesis statement or research question), create a search strategy to help you find sources for your assignment.

Identify Ideas or Concepts
  1. Write out your thesis statement/research question.
  2. Pull out the most important words or phrases to use for your search
  3. Eliminate words that indicate relationships between ideas/concepts (should, be, use, for) along with articles and prepositions (it, to, and, or)
  4. Add "quotation marks" around phrases. This tells the database or search engine to treat the phrase as one term (rather than searching for each word individually).

Write your thesis or research question, then underline your keywords or keyword phrases: What causes burnout in elementary school teachers?

Brainstorm Keywords

For each important word/phrase, come up with similar or related terms such as: 

  • Synonyms (different word, same meaning) 

  • Narrower terms (more specific) 

  • Broader terms (less specific) 

  • Everyday language (words the average person would use to describe something) 

  • Formal or academic language (words that experts in a subject/discipline would use to describe something) 

Tip: After you start searching, add any additional keywords or phrases that you come across in your results.

Examples of keywords and alternate keywords. See Search Strategy Example (PDF) for full text.

Additional Brainstorming

Consider professions, disciplines, and subject area of professionals who might be researching and publishing articles on your topic. This can help you pick subject-specific databases.

List subject areas of professionals who might be publishing articles about your topic: Education, Psychology, School Administration