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Prof. Gaffney: SPRING 2021; Eng. 101: Developing a Research Question and Search Strategy

Developing a Research Question

  • Understand the assignment!     
  • What are the requirements?
  • Use analytical thinking and strong arguments.

Developing a Research Question or Thesis:

Questions to consider while doing your research:

               What is the purpose of the assignment?

                       Ex. What kind of essay are you writing? Persuasive? Argumentative?

               Why is this topic important?

               Why would your readers be interested in this topic? (So what? Who cares?)

               How will you convince them?

               How does your topic connect to present day conditions in society?

                      Ex. Civil Rights movement in the 1960's to Black Lives Matter

                             Voting Rights Act of 1965 to current voter suppression laws or Shelby County v. Holder

               What kind of information will you need to find? 

                      Ex. Current? Historical? Scientific study? Surveys?

               What types of sources will you need?

                      Ex. Articles from library databases? Newspapers? Online articles? eBooks? Print?

                      Ex. Primary sources? Secondary sources? Tertiary sources?

               How will you search for these sources?

                      Ex. What is your search strategy? Concepts and keywords?

               Where will you find these sources?

                      Ex. Library databases? Reports? Government websites?

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.

  • Global warming OR climate change OR greenhouse gases
  • Black Lives Matter OR protest movements OR civil right movements
  • Police brutality OR police violence OR police misconduct
  • Mental illness OR psychiatric illness OR mental disorders
  • Racism OR racial profiling OR racial violence

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 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 crim* will yield results for:

            Crime, crimes, criminal, criminals, criminology, criminality‚Äč

            Play* will yield results for plays, played, player(s), playing, playful, playfully, playground

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