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HIST. 111 - U.S. 19th Century History - Prof. Vecchio - FALL 2022: Developing a Research Question and Databases

Develop a Search Strategy

Search Strategies: using keywords, synonyms / related concepts, and truncation:

Relevant keywords are necessary for effective research. You can start by taking keywords from your thesis statement.

There are other ways to develop additional keywords.

1. Use synonyms and related concepts

Think of other words that mean the same or similar things as the words in your question. It can help to brainstorm before you begin your search.

  • Abolitionists OR American Anti-Slavery Society
  • American Civil War OR The War Between the States
  • Battle of Little Big Horn OR Sitting Bull OR George Armstrong Custer 

Look at the subject terms in your search results and see if you can use any of those.

2. Use truncation:

       You can broaden your search results by typing an asterisk symbol  * at the end of the root of a word. When you do this, the computer will search for alternative endings for the word you have typed. 

       For example, typing abol* will yield results for:

              Abolish    abolition    abolitionist(s)    abolishment​    abolished     abolishing

3. Create parameters

            Limit your topic to a specific period or geographical region.

             Ex. Reconstruction in Georgia

4. Refine your topic

           Start with a broad topic and narrow it by thinking of related issues. 

Ex. Broad topic:  American Civil War

      Narrowed topics:  Battle of Chickamauga, Braxton Bragg, Army of Tennessee

      Thesis: General Bragg’s failure to pursue the Federalist forces after winning the Battle of Chickamauga was a missed opportunity for the Army of Tennessee.


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