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Moving from a Research Question to a Search Strategy
Moving from a Research Question to an effective Search Strategy involves breaking down a Research Question into its Core Concepts and Alternate Terms then constructing an effective Search Strategy using Boolean operators, nesting, truncation, and phrase searching. Here's an example of the process, and use the Search Strategy Builder to generate your search strategy!
Now, we can copy and paste this Search Strategy into the database search field:
fortifi* AND (settlement OR dwellings OR “settlement patterns”) AND (mesoamerica OR maya OR olmec OR aztec OR zapotec)
Part of the research process is constantly re-evaluating your search strategy - how you might tweak it to get better results - here are some things to consider while searching:
- When you find a relevant article, be sure to look at the subject headings and other terms used to describe the core concepts of the article - you might want to include those in your search to increase its effectiveness. For example, after doing some searching, I found the subject heading of "fortified dwellings" was sometimes used to describe resources relevant to my research.
- Your search strategy includes choosing appropriate databases - you might add and subtract databases from your search throughout the research process; your topic might require your searching in other multidisciplinary databases or subject-specific databases beyond anthropology.
- Sometimes focusing on a specific aspect/concept in your search or narrowing the topic is necessary - e.g., for topic above, you might narrow your search to include specific civilizations.
- Some databases may not support the search functions I demonstrated above, such as:
- Long search strategies with nesting (keywords within parentheses), but switching to an Advanced Search will have multiple search fields, and think of each search field as a nested portion of a search.
- Truncation (*) - so enter the different words connected by OR - e.g., tattooing OR tattoo.
- Some databases (e.g., AnthroSource) do not allow OR/AND searching - pay close attention to how you can achieve the same searching logic within the strictures of that database.
Search Strategy Builder
Search Strategy Builder
The Search Strategy Builder is a tool designed to teach you how to create a search string using Boolean logic. While it is not a database and is not designed to input a search, you should be able to cut and paste the results into most databases’ search boxes.
Now copy and paste the above Search Statement into a database search box.
The Search Strategy Builder was developed by the University of Arizona Libraries and is used under a Creative Commons License.
Research Question -> Search Strategy Worksheet
Here is a blank worksheet that you can use to break down your Research Question into its Core Concepts and then construct an effective Search Strategy using Boolean operators, nesting, truncation, and phrase searching.