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R. Krusper EDGE ENG 101: Getting Started

Helpful Handouts

What is your topic?

London Tattoo Convention.Photography.  Encyclopaedia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 15 Sep 2015.

Beverly Hillbillies. Photography. Encyclopaedia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 15 Sep 2015.


Research parameters

A good start to your research means identifying what your research parameters are.  Some questions you will need to ask yourself:

  •               What is my general topic of interest? 
  •               What citation format will I be using?  
  •               How many resources do I need and is my teacher requiring that I use a specific type of resource?
  •               Determine what kind of information you need to know about your topic.  In most cases you will probably need to                 know some kind of background information.  Background information provides you with the basic who (important               names), what (definitions), where (locations, dates) and why (importance, controversies).  

From Topic to Keywords

To find good research material you need good keywords. The better your keywords, the better your search results will be.

To begin, start with your general topic.  In most cases your general topic will be enough to provide you with a set of keywords to help you get started.  However, you may also need to develop an actual research statement.  

A good research statement is similar to a thesis, only less refined.  Having one will help narrow your focus and reveal additional keywords that can be combined in a database search.  

If you combine too few keywords that are too general, then you will end up with results in a database that are too broad (too many, not relevant). If you combine more keywords that are more focused, then your results will also be more focused and precise. 

(general topic)                                     (research statement)

Hillbilly Stereotypes à What are the origins of the hillbilly stereotype?

Keyword combination #1: hillbilly stereotype 


(general topic)                   (research statement)

Hillbilly Stereotypes à Is the hillbilly stereotype authentic?

Keyword combination #2: hillbilly stereotype authentic

After reading some of the articles resulting from the search above, you’ll discover that an alternative keyword you can use in your search combination is Appalachian culture.

Keyword combination #3: hillbilly stereotype Appalachian culture

NOTE: If you are still having a hard time finding good keywords, try the following:

  1. Take your main idea or general topic (hillbilly stereotype) and do a search in a reference databases (Credo Reference, Gale Virtual Reference) to find some background information and identify some vocabulary words related to your topic.
  2. Use a thesaurus to find synonyms for a keyword you already have (ex. violence vs. aggression).
  3. Use the results from a database search. A database record will typically include related subject terms that can also be used as possible keywords.

Choosing a Database

Your next step is to choose a good database and try out some of your keyword combinations.

Search Almost Everything database – search feature located on the library homepage which essentially searches a large collection of our databases all at once. Pros: lots of results, variety of resources including ebooks, newspapers, magazines. Cons: lots of results so you will need to understand how to use the handy filter options located on the side bar at the left.

Credo Reference or Gale Virtual Reference databases – located under Encyclopedia/Dictionaries/Reference on the database page. Pros: really good for basic background information, definitions, history. Cons: most of the entries are pretty short.

CQ Researcher and Opposing Viewpoints – located under Controversial Issues on the databases page. Pros: really useful if you have a current/controversial topic. Cons: if it’s not a current controversial topic then it may be hard to find something.