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Political Science 194 (Conrad)

Senior Honors Thesis Seminar

Brainstorming Search Terms

How does the impact of participation in extracurricular activities impact undergraduate student success?

Independent Variable: extracurricular activity participation

Defined by: participation in sports/ student government/ clubs & orgs; participation in academic-type activities vs. participation in sports-like activities

Dependent Variable: student success

Defined by: GPA, grades, pass/fall rates, graduation rates, class ranking 

Brainstorming search terms? Ask, who, what, when, where, why & how?

Conducting a few test searches in library databases can help you locate the best search terms for your topic. When conducting a test search, look for additional terms in the article's:

  • title
  • abstract
  • article headings
  • author or database supplied keywords
  • subject headings (if available) 

Not sure what terminology is used by researchers to articulate the concepts related to your topic? Doing some background reading can help you become familiar with the terms used to discuss your topic. 

Books and encyclopedias are great resources for locating a more general overview of a a topic. 

Search Tips

1. Utilize appropriate limiters and specific fields.

  • date limiter, articles only, title field etc.

2. Use terminology related to your topic.

  • from preliminary readings or reference material e.g. books from class, Credo, Oxford Reference
  • by skimming through initial search results
  • in considering the terminology of the time period

3. Join different terms with AND.  Join similar terms with OR.

  • gender AND propaganda
  • community OR society

4. Use truncation (often *) to look for variations of a term.

  • communit* to search for community OR communities

5. Search for a phrase using quotation marks.

  • "labor dispute"
  • "Pullman strike"
  • "social movement"
  • "San Joaquin Valley"

6. If you do not retrieve any results,

  • broaden your search. e.g. from Advertising to -->> Advertising OR "Mass media"
  • narrow your search e.g. "navy technology" to ---> a specific type of navy technology e.g. submarine
  • examine your terminology. Am I using appropriate search terms?
  • consider if the database is suitable. Does this database include the content I need?