Doing the Research
Unsure how to narrow your topic or find resources? Use this interactive form to brainstorm, choose keywords, and create good search strings that can bring you the most relevant results in our catalog or a research database.
If you are having difficulty, please contact the research librarian.
Develop a Keyword Search
When you have a general idea of your research topic, begin the following steps:
Consider what you already know about your topic and
of simple and general search terms to use in the catalog or a research database. Then add complexity, focus, and specifics.
Construct a search strategy:
Circle two or three of the most important concepts or keywords you have chosen for your search.
If a thesaurus or subject list is available in the database you are using, you can use terms from it as well.
Now write each keyword down and list synonymous or related terms:
Write Down Your Search Terms First Concept Second Concept Third Concept Or Or Or Or Or Or Or Or Or
Insert connectors and, or, and not between the terms you’ve chosen to combine them into a search statement.
A search using and narrows your topic.
Example: beer and health and college students.
A search using or broadens your topic.
Example: alcoholic beverages or beer or wine or liquor.
A search using not can eliminate unrelated topics.
Example: Proliferation not nuclear.
Write out the search statements you’ve created:
Input these statements into the catalog or a research database to get your first set of results.
Use this catalog widget to perform your first search.
The catalog will open in a new window so you won’t lose the information in the form.
Find Additional Sources
Try these tips to get more information:
Exploit bibliographies. Especially note relevant items in the bibliographies of:
Books and book chapters
Relevant statistics can be a good source of evidence to use in your research papers and projects. See the guide to Data & Statistics.
Want something unavailable at Northwestern? Request an interlibrary loan.