How to research for topic-specific academic sources
Turn your topics into keywords
It's important to search only for the main parts of your topic because if you enter your entire research question in the Library databases, the library databases look for the exact words that you enter in the search box(es). This would lead to improper results.
Here is an example of a research question:
What is the relationship between test performance and the retention of ESL students?
- test performance
- ESL students
Avoid abstract or implied concepts
Because the databases search for the exact words that you enter, certain types of words can be unhelpful to include in your search. These include:
relationship words: words that get at the relationship between two topics (examples: compare, contrast, correlation, causation, relationship)
judgment words: words that judge something to be better or worse than something else (examples: best, worst, pro, con, advantages, disadvantages)
Use of synonyms / antonyms to extend your search
Synonyms are words that have the same or similar meaning. Antonyms are words that have the opposite meaning. Both can be helpful when trying to determine relevant keywords for your research topic.
Some topics have many different terms that can be used to describe them. For example, here are some additional keywords that could be used for test performance:
- Test-Taking Skill
- Test Anxiety
- Academic Achievement
- Test Preparation
Sometimes when you are researching a specific topic, it can also be helpful to search for the opposite of your topic. For example, if you are interested in student retention, you'll also want to look at student dropouts. Here are some possible synonyms and antonyms for student retention:
- Student Persistence
- School Holding Power
- Student Attrition
- Dropout Prevention