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COLSC 100; Prof. Schlusberg FALL 2021: Getting Started - Background Research

Why Do Background Research?

When you do background research you can find:

  • Words or phrases that are specific to your topic.
  • Information that answers basic information on your topic. 
  • Major ideas related to your topic.
  • People, places, time periods that are relevant to your topic.
  • Additional readings on your topic.

Databases for Background Information

Planning Your 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 or research question.

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 gas
  • Teens OR teenagers OR adolescents 
  • College OR university
  • Marijuana OR cannabis

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 marketwill yield results for:

     markets, marketed, marketing, marketers, marketplace(s)‚Äč

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

3. Create parameters

            Limit your topic to a specific time period or geographical region.

             Ex. Social media in America

4. Refine your topic

             Start with a broad topic and narrow it down by thinking of some of the issues associated with it. 

             Ex. Broad topic:  Mental illness

                  Narrowed topics:  personality disorders, exercise addiction, depression, bipolar disorder

                  Research question: Is borderline personality disorder more prevalent in women than in men?           

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