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SHB Oostburg High School: Starting Your Research

Tamala Szyman

Finding keywords

A keyword is a word that you commonly use to describe your subject.   When you search a catalog or database, your search results are a list of books or articles that match the keywords you used.  Finding the right words is the "key" to successful research!

Ways to brainstorm keywords:

  • Ask yourself questions about your topic and write down words that you use. 
  • Do some background reading on your topic--from encyclopedias, news articles, text books, etc. Add words you find to your list.
  • Consult a thesaurus or dictionary for synonyms for your terms, such as Bartleby Reference.
  • As you begin searching, look at the "subject terms" or other terminology in the records you find. Use these terms in new searches.

Choosing a topic

Use this checklist as you consider topics:

___  Did you review the expectations for the paper/project?  Does your topic meet the expectations?

___  Is your topic interesting to you?

___  Will you be able to find enough quality sources on this topic?  (see video below)

___ If the paper/project requires you to write at length--let's say 5 pages--ask yourself if you can write 5 pages of quality content on your topic?

As you consider these questions, do some preliminary reading about your topic.  Even brief background reading (CQ Researcher/Points of View/Wikipedia) will help you understand some of the basic concepts, terms and scope of your topic.

Picking Your Topic IS Research!

Source: NCSU Libraries

Brainstorming topics / background research

These sources will give you an overview of a topic and some ideas of ways that you can pursue the topic in more detail.

Other resources for background information

  • Opposing Viewpoints (book series) - Type "opposing viewpoints" in the Search @UW box, and change the scope to "UWGB Libraries Books, media & more."  From the list of results, scroll down the left-hand column and limit to "UW-Green Bay at Sheboygan" to see the titles in our library.

Things to learn from background research

Use background research to locate key information on your topic, including the following:

  • Key words:  what words are commonly associated with your topic?
  • Names of organizations and people associated with your topic:  Is there a professional association that might have information regarding your topic?  Are there authors that frequently write on your topic?
  • Important dates associated with your topic:  Is anything about your topic date-specific, such as the date of enactment of key legislation or the date of a scientific break-through?
  • Web sites that may have information about your topic:  is there a affiliated web site of a government agency or a professional association that could lead you to other sources?
  • Sources cited in the bibliography of your "background" article:  are there scholarly sources such as books or journal articles that may be used in your paper?