To come up with keywords, identify the most important words in your research question or topic.
State your research question or topic.
Do video games increase violence in teens?
What are the key concepts? Think nouns and noun phrases.
Do video games increase violence in teens?
List related terms
- Consider how different people or communities talk about the concept.
- Consider how language has changed over time.
- Think of broader terms, narrower terms, or synonyms.
Consider using some of these search strategies
- " quotations to search phrases.
- * an asterisk to find word variations.
- AND, OR, NOT to combine terms.
Example: "video games" AND (teen* OR youth) AND (aggression OR violence)
Make sure you check the HELP or ABOUT pages for each database you use.
- In Omni: Use the down arrow to search for material that appears in the bibliography of the article you are considering. Use the up arrows to search for material that has used the article you are considering in their bibliography. This is an excellent way to see the progression of a topic and to find more articles.
Consider these questions to generate more search terms
- WHO: Who is involved? Whom does it effect? Is there a specific population you will focus on?
- WHERE: Where did it begin? Do you want to focus on a specific geographic region?
- WHEN: When did it begin? Do you want to focus on a specific timeframe?
- WHY: Why does it matter? Why do you think we should investigate?
Try different search combinations and strategies! The process is iterative.
Database searching is NOT like Google! Most do not support natural language searching. You have to be precise in the words that you select.
Developing a good search strategy is important
Answer the following questions:
- what is your assignment?
- what is the main topic?
- who has an interest in that topic?
- what other language might they be using to talk about that topic? do they spell it differently?
- when was it relevant? is it a new idea, or a long standing issue?
- what other factors play into your issue? geography, government, people, etc.
Step 1: Write your topic out in sentence or question form
- How do Canadian social workers treat teenage drug abuse?
Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords
- Canada, social work, teenage, drug abuse
Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept
- teenage - juvenile, youth
Tip: Use dictionaries, encyclopedias, or a thesaurus to find alternate words.
Step 4: Add "Boolean operators" (AND, OR) to make a complete search statement
- Use AND to limit or narrow your search to results that mention all of your keywords.
- Use OR to broaden your search to include synonyms.
- Canada AND social work AND teenagers
- Canada AND social work AND (teenager OR youth OR juvenile) - Note: OR terms must be bracketed.
A wildcard is usually represented by a *. This is also called truncation. Sometimes it is represented by a ?
- (teenage* OR youth OR juvenile*) AND Canad* AND (drug abuse OR substance abuse)
Step 6: Consider Key Phrase searching
Some databases search each word separately. To ensure that your words are evaluated as a key phrase, enclose them in double quotation marks.
- "drug abuse"
Your final search string should be something like this:
- Canad* AND "social work" AND (teen* OR youth OR juvenile*) AND ("drug abuse" OR "substance abuse")
TIP: Check the About or HELP pages for each database to ensure you are using the correct Boolean operators for that database.
Step 7: Evaluate your results
If you are finding too many or too few results, try these tricks:
To broaden your search (find more):
- Find synonym for each keyword.
- Search for a broader concept ('dog' instead of 'poodle').
- Use wildcards/truncation.
To narrow your search (find fewer):
- Add another concept or idea to your search with AND
- Use more specific words ('poodle' instead of 'dog').
Pick a research-tracking method
The best way to keep track of your searches is to create accounts for the databases you use (OMNI, Proquest databases, EbscoHost databases). When you login your searches are saved in your account.
An electronic form is another way of keeping track provided by the following universities:
- Research Strategy Worksheet (University of Colorado Boulder)
- Scholarly Research Log (Capella University)
- Keeping Track of the Search (UCLA)
- The low-tech way to keep track of your research sources is to use 3x5 or 4x6 index cards. Use one card per source consulted.
- Note the source's bibliographic information on the top of the card so you'll have the information ready when you need to cite the source in your bibliography. Make your notes on the remaining space on the card.
Start your research on the Library's home page using OMNI.
Then use the subject databases:
- Databases tagged for Social Work
- Both CPI-Q and Canadian Business and Current Affairs Database have Canadian content.
- JSTOR and Google Scholar are both excellent multidisciplinary databases. More multidisciplary databases.
- Criminal Justice: Criminal Justice Abstracts
- Education: ERIC
- Elderly: PsycINFO and Sociological Abstracts
- Gender and women's studies: Gender Studies database and Studies on Women & Gender Abstracts
- Health (including women's health): Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL) and PubMed and Scopus
- History: America History and Life (covers Canada and the US) and Historical Abstracts (covers the rest of the world)
- Human rights: HuriSearch
- Indigenous peoples: Bibliography of Native North Americans or America History and Life
- Mental Health: PsycINFO
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSPpubs
- Political Economy: EconLit
- Policy-related literature: PAIS Index and Business Source Complete and Policy Commons
- Poverty: Sociological Abstracts and World Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Abstracts
- Children: Child Development & Adolescent Studies and PscyINFO
Do not limit yourself to these databases. Check the Databases by Subject page to see where there may be more databases that suit your research.
For Grey Literature see the Subject Guide on Grey Literature or sign up for the professional development course called Grey is the New Black - Grey Literature: How to Find It offered on February 22nd from 2:00-3:00 pm. Sign up.
See the Grey Literature Pages
See the Think Tanks Page
Custom Google Think Tanks Search Engine
Using the Web to find Grey Literature
- restricting content to file type
- type in your topic and then "filetype:pdf" or "filetype:doc"
- restricting content to site .org or .gov sites
- type in your topic and then either "site:.org" OR "site:.gov"
- restricting content to searching titles only
- type search "intitle: "climate change""
- to exclude words from your search
- to do this search use operator "-" (minus) eg. jaguar speed -car
Search for sites that link to site of interest:
Find quick information about a site:
Use Social Media:
- Often organizations and individuals make information about their publications available via their social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.).
Use other Search Engines:
Use Other Search Engines
Use other search engines to get broader results. For example, Duck Duck Go does not collect user information and therefore results are not filtered based on your personal profile.
- Internet Archives (researching old websites, but it’s so much more)
- Search Encrypt (uses local encryption to ensure your searches remain private)
- CCSearch (copyright-free content)
- Mednar (deep web search engine, medically-focused)
Use OMNI to search for Grey Literature
- Do your Boolean search
- Choose resource type - choose only those resources types that are considered Grey Literature (see Grey Literature Pages above)
See "Special Topics" on the Social Work Subject Guide
- Canadian Public Documents Collection
- Conference Board of Canada e-Library
- NBER Working Paper Series (U.S.)
- Policy File Index (U.S.)
Use other Databases
Many databases allow you to limit your search by content/resource type. Check individual databases: Databases or Databases by Subject
Explore the following databases:
- Policy Index File (Premier resource for policy grey literature)
- Dissertations and Theses Global
- IEEE Xplore Digital Library (narrow down to "conference publications")
- CURVE (Carleton University Repository Virtual Environment)
- Scopus (A multidisciplinary abstract and citation database of research literature and web sources)
- Policy Commons (International think tank publications)
- Web of Science (multidisciplinary suite of databases)
- WorldCat (covers resources outside of Carleton's collection)
There are many free citation/document management systems available. The library provides support in the use of some of these tools, find out about those here Citation Management.
NVivo is a software package that helps with qualitative data analysis. Keep track of all data associated with your project, code your data, create models to help organize your research, run queries on your coded data, create charts and reports for sharing with others etc.
A literature review is an assessment of a body of research that addresses a research question. It aims to review the critical points of current knowledge, as well as theoretical and methodological contributions to a particular topic.
STEP ONE: Watch this video
STEP TWO: Check out this webpage: Conducting a Literature Review
STEP THREE: Sage Research Methods go the the Project Planner
Find More Literature Reviews
Search OMNI or subject specific DATABASES and add the term "literature review" to your search terms.
TIP: You can do an ADVANCED search in PsycINFO and limit by methodology: literature review
Dissertations and Theses
Many dissertations and theses require a literature review. Most of these appear near the very beginning of the dissertation so that the writer can position their work relative to other relevant work in the field.
- CURVE - Carleton's institutional repository. Theses and Dissertations created by Carleton University students.
- Dissertations and Theses Global
- Other Dissertations/Theses databases
- General or Social Work specific library information: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Citation Management: email@example.com
- Other subject areas (scroll down)
- Library Account problems
- Copyright OR contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Data Management
- Scholarly Communications including: DOIs, Open Access publishing, and resources for authors.
- To get material from other libraries:
You can order journal articles and print material directly from OMNI now. This service is free and has a very quick turnaround.
If you need assistance with this, contact the Library Services Desk:
- 613-520-2600 ext. 2734