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Research Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide

Choosing and Using Key Words

Building a Search Strategy

Ten Basic Steps in Building a Research Strategy

1. Identify the important concepts of your search.

2. Choose the keywords that describe these concepts.

3. Determine whether there are synonyms, related terms, or other variations of the keywords that should be included.

4. Determine which search features may apply, including truncation, proximity operators, Boolean operators, expression search, and so forth.

5. Choose a relevant database, library catalog, etc.

6. Read the search instructions on the database's home page.  Look for sections entitled "Help," "Advanced Search," "Frequently Asked Questions," and so forth.

7. Create a search expression, using syntax, which is appropriate for the search tool.

8. Evaluate the results.  How many hits were returned?  Were the results relevant to your query?

9. Modify your search if needed. Go back to steps 2-4 and revise your query accordingly.

10. Try the same search in a different database, following steps 5-9 above.