Welcome! This is a step-by-step guide designed to help you do university level academic research using library resources.
- Finding a topic
- Creating a search strategy -- identifying keywords and brainstorming for synonyms
- Determining how many sources you need and what type (e.g., academic or popular)
- Using WorldCat UMD to find books, DVDs, government documents etc.
- Using Research Port to access databases for articles from magazines, newspapers and journals
- Being sure to cite your sources
Finding A Topic
If you are having a difficult time selecting a topic for your project, try these resources for ideas:
Creating a Search Strategy
The first step is to identify the main concepts in your research question. Next, brainstorm for synonyms and related words. For example, you could use Terrapins but someone else might use the term Terps; in order to find all of the relevant results you will have to use both terms.
Boolean operators are used to connect keywords in a way that all search engines understand. The most commonly used ones are: AND and OR.
Using AND will make your search more specific / narrower. The results will only include items that use both of your keywords.
Using OR will make your search more inclusive / broader. By using OR the number of your search results will increase. It is useful to use OR when you are unsure which keyword would work best. The results may include one, two or all three of your keywords.
A search for Terps OR Terrapins will produce results that include either term, or both terms within the records retrieved.
Be careful when combining AND and OR in the same search sentence as the search engine may not interpret your search the way you intend because of the order of operations (like in math class). Use parentheses to keep ORs together.
Example: Maryland AND (Terps OR Terrapins)
You may also choose to limit your search results by excluding certain terms. To do this, use NOT. For example, if you want articles about a certain journalist's career but not editorials about them, you could search:
(Cronkite AND career) NOT editorials.
Use the NOT connector sparingly, as you may eliminate some articles or information that could be useful. This connector can, however, be a helpful tool if you have a large number of items in your results list and you want to refine your search.