Research Strategies

Research Strategies

  1. Once you have identified your thesis question and keywords for your research, test your topic by searching a broad, general resource such as JumboSearch or Google Scholar. These sources may help you understand the broader context of your topic and tell you in general terms what is known about your topic. They will give you an idea of how much and what kind of information is available on a given topic. If you are finding too much information and too many sources, narrow your topic; finding too few may indicate that you need to broaden your topic by using more general terms.
  2. Exploit existing bibliographies. Annual ReviewsDissertations & Theses, and Oxford Bibliographies Online are database sources of literature reviews in specific fields. Sources cited in these bibliographies are good starting points for further research.
  3. When you’ve identified some useful titles, look these sources up in the JumboSearch. Check the subject headings listed in the subject field of these catalog records and then do searches using those subject headings to locate additional titles.


Effective Database Searching

Although Google allows you to search a whole sentence or phrase, most databases do not behave this way. You’ll need to select key phrases, words and concepts when searching databases. Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and keywords in the Advanced Search mode for best results; they connect your search words together to either narrow or broaden your set of results.

1. Using "and" in a search will:

  • narrow and focus your results
  • tell the database that all search terms must be present in the resulting records
  • example: refugees and resettlement and women

The triangle in the middle of the Venn diagram above represents the result set for this search. The search result records all contain the words Sudan, negotiations, and ceasefire.


2. Using "or" in a search will:

  • connect terms describing similar concepts (synonyms)
  • broaden your results by  telling the database that any of your search terms can be present in the resulting records
  • example: carbon or ozone or pollution

All three circles represent the result set for this search. It is a big set because any of those words are valid when using the "or" operator.


3. Using truncation (an asterisk) and wildcards (usually a question mark or exclamation point) will expand results and include variant spelling. Truncation symbols may vary by database; common symbols include: *, !, ?, or #

  • example: child* and refugee

Child* brings up child, children, childhood, and any other word that starts with the root "child."

  • example: globali?ation and wom?n

Globali?ation brings up items with the words globalization or globalisation. Similar to truncation, wildcards substitute a symbol for one letter of a word.