Researching a Topic
Thinking critically about a research topic is important. It is often helpful to pose the topic in the form of a research question:
e.g. What impact does Inuit culture have on the ecology of the arctic?
This will help to identify the main concepts in the question:
e.g. Inuit, culture, ecology
and will in turn help in the construction of a search strategy:
e.g. Inuit and culture and ecology
This search strategy is a very simple Boolean search, that is, it combines search terms with AND. The three Boolean operators are AND, OR, NOT. For more information on Boolean Searching follow this link.
It can be helpful to construct several search strategies before you try searching for material, as different search strategies will yield different results. Remember that a concept may be expressed in different ways, e.g. an older term to describe the Inuit is Eskimo; culture might be expressed as cultural, social, customs, etc. You may want to make a list of terms that could be used to describe each concept.
A search including alternate search terms might look like this:
(Inuit or Eskimo) and (cultur* or social or custom*) and ecolog*
The asterisk (*) is a truncation symbol, and it indicates that you want words that begin with the root you have entered, but that you are also willing to accept various endings, e.g. culture, cultures, cultural, etc.
The parentheses indicate that all the terms within the brackets should be considered together. The OR indicates that you are willing to accept any or all of the terms found within the brackets.
To learn more about constructing effective search strategies, look at the Tips For Searching guide.
If you have questions, suggestions or comments about this guide, please contact AU Library.
Please note that you do not need to capitalize words in most library catalogues and journal databases, as most are not case sensitive!