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Developing a Search Strategy
The following steps outline a simple and effective strategy for finding information for your research paper and documenting the sources you find. Depending on your topic and your familiarity with the library, you may need to rearrange or recycle these steps. Adapt this outline to your needs.
- Understand your assignment: Your writing task begins when you receive your writing assignment from your teacher. The first step is to make sure you understand the assignment and what your teacher wants you to do with it.
- Choose a topic: Identify an issue/problem that interests you
- Narrow your topic to a very specific issue or problem
- Get your topic approved, if required by your professor.
- Learn about your topic:
- Search for background information on the web, in your class readings, and encyclopedias:
- Helps you understand the issue
- Provides you with terminology you can use when searching the library’s resources to look for books and articles
- Develop a list of search terms: Based on what you learned about the topic from the background information you found, develop a list of search terms to use when searching the library catalog and article databases
- Search for information: Use the library’s resources to search for:
- Books (search for books on both your broad and specific topic as well as work that NGOs that may be working to solve the issue/problem)
- Scholarly Journal Articles (search for your specific topic, including NGOs that may be working to solve the issue/problem)
- Identify and search for other types of information that might help you:
- Magazine Articles
- Newspaper Articles
- Government Publications/Reports
- Create a bibliography of the best sources you’ve located.
- Make sure you use the citation style required by your professor.
- Evaluate the info that you found:
- Did you find enough resources to meet the assignment expectations?
- Did you find enough information to write your paper?
- Does it provide you with an understanding of the issue/problem?
- Does it help you find a solution to the problem?
- If you answered no to any of these questions:
- Look for additional information using the library’s resources
- Look through the bibliographies (reference or works cited lists) of the books and articles you located that are relevant to your topic to see if any of the sources will help you. If so, search for the resources using the library’s search tools.
- Refine your topic
- Write your paper:
- Consult the writing consultant assigned to the course if you need advice or assistance.
- Cite your sources:
- To avoid plagiarism, cite the sources you consult to write your paper.