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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|
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.
Example: I'm doing a paper about 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, ceramics artist|
|Alternate focus:||Ceramics artists|
|California, the U.S.|
Focus on a Person or Group:
|Post WWI art movement, ceramics programs in a specific college, California artists, ceramics in terms of crafts vs. fine arts|
|Focus on an Event or Aspect:||Getty Pacific Standard Time initiative, an exhibition about "Clay in L.A."|
"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." --Pablo Picasso
Since the Web is not organized in the same way a research database is, you usually cannot do field searching on the Web nor can you rely on the consistency of a controlled vocabulary.
Computerized search mechanisms are based on Boolean logic. When you use the enter code words known as boolean operators you are telling the computer exactly how to perform a search which will be tailored to your specific needs.
The most commonly used code words are: AND, OR, and NOT. The phrase you enter into a search box is called the search string (or syntax)