Developing a strong search strategy can save you time when it is time to search for resources. Rather than doing general searching using Google, we recommend that you search using the library databases. Searching Google is much different than searching library databases.
One facet of database searching that can be difficult to get used to is subject heading or keyword searches. Rather than typing a question in and expecting instant results, users need to focus on identifying and using controlled language searches.
Identifying controlled language for subject headings and keywords is beneficial for the savvy researcher. Controlled language is typically assigned by the Library of Congress and is then used universally (or at least in English) by vendors and publishers when identifying main points and ideas for their books, journals and other publications.
Once the controlled language for your topic is identified, database searching is usually much easier.
Language used on websites by various entities can often be arbitrary and inconsistent.
Talking about a search strategy is great, but how do you, or should you, go about developing one?
Having a topic or idea of what you want to research is an easy place to start. But how often does that really happen? You may have a list of suggested topics provided by your professor you have to choose from. Or you may have very few guidelines and are interested in many different topics that you've read about or discussed in class.
Either way, talking it out with someone can be a helpful first step. Whether it's a professor, classmate, friend, parent, significant other, advisor, boss, co-worker, a librarian, or whoever, just have a conversation with someone about it! Talking it through with someone, especially if they aren't involved in the class, can really force you to explain more fully and help clarify your thinking about how you view particular topics or ideas in a new or different way.
Brainstorming is another good way to get started, or it can work as a second step in the process. Jot down some ideas that come to mind, try not to think to hard about how you would pursue that train of thought, just write it down and don't filter yourself. You can filter after you have brainstormed.
After you've selected a topic of you've got a few ideas, you can identify keywords and subject headings using the Library of Congress authorities or by doing an initial search of the book catalog or article databases. Think about how you can pair different terms together to refine your search. Don't be afraid to experiment a little bit, you have nothing to lose!
You have the option to select from a wide variety of topics for your research paper. If you're not sure where to get started or you hit a wall trying to find research, our librarians would love to help you.