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Jack Gordon Institute: National Security Policy Fellows

A research guide to assist participants in the JGI National Security Policy Program

Research Tips

Research doesn't have to be hard, but it does take time.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Read your assignment thoroughly and carefully.
    • What is your professor asking you to do? What types of resources do you need to find? How many? What citation style are you required to use? When is your assignment due?
  2. Choose your topic.
  3. Brainstorm.
    • What do you know about your topic?
    • What does your audience know?
    • What do you need to show/prove to get your point across?
  4. Write a list of key words.
    • The more you know about your subject, the easier it is to find information to support your argument.
    • Create a list of all the words commonly used to describe your topic. This will make it easier to modify your search terms while conducting library research.
  5. Pick your source(s) and start searching.
    • Do you need to find scholarly articles? Books? News? Images? The library has resources to help you locate whatever you need.
    • Need help choosing the best database or resource? ASK US!
    • Start of with getting a general understanding of your topic by collecting background information through things like encyclopedias, basic internet searching, news, etc.< /li>
    • Build on that basic information by researching your topic across other formats and resources like books, periodicals, databases, etc. 
    • As you continue to search narrow down our topic to make it more manageable and specific, use the tools built-in to databases and other resources to help guide you, such as subject headings, tags, related searches, etc.
    • Ask for help!


Create a Search Strategy

 

Combine your keywords/search terms with Boolean operators

  • OR (synonyms: any of these words)
  • AND (restrict: all these words)

Break your research topic into keywords.

  • Many databases use specific terms to label documents, use these "official" database terms from the results that work for you
  • Try the thesaurus or subject headings

Use parentheses with your terms and Boolean operators to create your search phrase

  • exp. (cat OR kitten) AND (wild OR feral OR homeless)
Determine your conditions and apply them to your search as limits or filters
  • exp. publication year, document type, or Peer Reviewed
Place quotation marks (“ ”) around phrases to keep words together. 
  • Use this for an exact quote, phrase or order of the search term. exp. "latin america"
Add asterisks (*) to “fill-in-the-blank” at the end of a word 
  • The asterisk will be replaced by any applicable letters
  • This is called truncation
  • You can use asterisks as a shortcut for OR-ing words that have identical roots
  • For example, paint* will search for paint, painting, painters, painterly, etc.