When you begin a research project you often start with an idea that can be framed as a question.
Things to consider:
- What population/entity are you interested in?
- oil sands
- What phenomena is happening to/associated with this population?
- climate change
- Are you interested in a particular setting or context?
- oil sands
- Are you comparing between two things?
- poldering vs hydaulic filling
- plant species A vs plant species B
- Are you interested in a particular outcome?
- carbon sequestration
These are the concepts you can use to build your search strategy. Not all of these concepts may apply to your research project, but you usually include the population and the phenomena.
Example Research Questions
- What is the impact of climate change on the tundra?
- How does mercury affect Oncorhynchus mykiss reproduction?
- Which woody debris type is more effective for vegetation recovery from reclaimed oil sites?
Conversely, you may have a question already in which case you can identify the concepts from your question.
Narrowing/Broadening your research question
- focus on a particular species / widen to a genus or family
- focus on a particular geographic area / expand to a continent / global
- focus on one outcome / look at all outcomes
Once you have identified the concepts in your research question, you need to consider the different ways they can be expressed. These are your search terms.
|Concept||Search term||Search term||Search term|
To conduct a search you need to combine your search terms together. There are a number of techniques you can use to help make this more efficient and effective
To find articles which contain all of your concepts:
- Combine them with AND
- Using AND narrows your search
- The more words you combine with AND, the less results you will retrieve
- water AND sustainability
To find articles which contain any of your keywords:
- Combine them with OR
- Using OR expands your search
- The more words you combine with OR, the more results you will retrieve
- water OR hydro
To eliminate non-relevant results:
- Combine with NOT
- Using NOT reduces the number of results you find. Use with caution as you may inadvertently remove results of interest
- lake NOT river
Combining Boolean Operators
You can combine multiple operators in your search:
- Use brackets to separate concepts
- (water OR hydro) AND (sustainability OR sustainable)
To find an exact phrase use quotation marks.
- "sustainable energy"
Truncation, also called stemming, is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings.
- Both the singular and plural forms of a word
- Words that begin with the same word stem
- Truncation symbols vary by database; common symbols include: *, ?, #, $
- sustainab* = sustainable, sustainability
- Controlled vocabulary/Subject heading
- Document type
- (water OR hydro) AND (sustainab*)
Now it is your turn. Try researching a topic.
- Identify the concepts
- Choose your search terms
- Combine them together
- Select a search tool
- Conduct your search
- Look at your results
- Did you find relevant results?
- How many results did you get?
- Do you need to adjust your research topic (narrow/broaden)