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Before you begin a research project, you will need to clarify your search terms or concepts. Each project is completely different and will require critical thinking skills. Clarification is the first phase of a Search Strategy.
Suppose you are asked to write a paper about the semiotics of advertising. You think the Benetton ad campaigns are a possibility.
A first step might be to do some preliminary browsing in a periodical database in order to discover how much has been published on the topic and what other terms have been used which related to your topic.
Study the following citations found in Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature and Lexis-Nexis. They were found by simply entering one term, Benetton, as a keyword. Notice the other terms or related topics which could be good alternative ideas for a paper on semiotics of advertising. Notice especially which terms are used in the subject fields.
Ask Yourself Questions About Your Topic:
Example: I'm thinking of doing a paper on an environmental subject. This topic could develop in many different ways.
|General Topic:||the environment|
|Time span:||1960s to the present|
|Place:||oceans, Los Angeles|
|Person or group:||organizations working on the issues|
|Event or Aspects:||behavior; sociological; changes|
Example: I'm researching a particular artist who graduated from Otis
This topic as stated may not have many many articles yet written about it. How can this be turned into a more manageable topic?
Look for broader associations:
|Specific Topic:||Robert Glover|
|Broader Topics:||Ceramics artists, male artists, Otis alumnx|
Focus on Time or Place:
|Los Angeles, California, United States, 20th century|
Focus on a Person or Group:
|Post WWII art movement, ceramics programs in a specific college, California artists, ceramics in terms of crafts vs. fine arts, Otis alumnx|
|Focus on an Event or Aspect:||Getty Pacific Standard Time initiative, an exhibition about "Clay in L.A."|