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Research 101: Library Research Methods: Find Your Topic

Find a Topic

Current Awareness: Set Up Alerts

Stay up-to-date on newly published research and current topics:

  1.  Database Alerts
  2. Google alerts

Select a topic

  1. Choose a topic that you have an interest in and that you might even be excited about.  
    • Narrow it down to something manageable. 
      • Too broad, you can get lost
      • Too narrow, you may miss relevant and connecting information
      • Background reading can help you choose and limit the scope of your topic
  2. Think of the who, what, when, where and why questions:
    • WHY did you choose the topic?  What interests you about it?  Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
    • WHO are the information providers on this topic?  Who might publish information about it?  Who is affected by the topic?  Do you know of organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?
    • WHAT are the major questions for this topic?  Is there a debate about the topic?  Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
    • WHERE is your topic important: at the local, national or international level?  Are there specific places affected by the topic?
    • WHEN is/was your topic important?  Is it a current event or an historical issue?  Do you want to compare your topic by time periods?
  3. Keywords are your friends!
    • Look for keywords when reading background information or encyclopedia articles on your topic. Search relevant keywords in catalogs, databases, search engines, and full-text resources.

    • To search a database effectively, start with a Keyword search, find relevant records, and then find relevant Subject Headings. In search engines, include many keywords to narrow the search and carefully evaluate what you find.

    • Look for keywords that best describe your topic.

    • Use keywords when searching for books and articles.

Choosing Keywords