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W132 Quick Guide: Irick Spring 2020

Quick guide to locating literary criticism and research strategies for your research argumentative essays.

Step 1: Brainstorm search terms

Think about keywords or phrases that are important to your topic:

Example paper topic: women in prison
Example search terms: women, females, inmates, offenders, prison, incarceration, "female prisoners", "female inmates", "incarcerated women"

Also, think about what you want to know about your topic:

Example paper topic: women in prison
Example questions: Why is the number of women in prison increasing? What is the experience of women who are in prison? Why do most women go to prison? How do mothers who are in prison maintain a relationship with their kids? What are the mental health effects of women who are in prison? 

Think about how to incorporate your questions into your search terms:

Example paper topic with question: How do mothers in prison maintain a relationship with their kids?
Example search terms: women, mothers, moms, parents, inmates, offenders, prison, relationship, custody, "mothers in prison", "parenting from prison", "incarcerated parents"

Step 2: Pick a starting point

Choose a starting point for your search based on the types of sources you need to find:

Step 3: Apply filters

The benefit of using library databases in your research is the ability to apply helpful filters to quickly narrow down results. Here are our top recommended filters:

  • Publication Date: before you start looking at results, make sure your publication date is set according to your assignment and topic. 
  • Format or Source Type: if you only need academic or scholarly journal articles, check that box.
  • Subject: think of these as the keywords built in to the database. In EDS, click "Show More" and you can check the boxes for the subject terms that are relevant for your topic.

Step 4: Review search results

Start scrolling through your search results to see if the results look relevant for your topic:

  • If you are seeing good results, great! Skip to Step 6.
  • If not, or if you're seeing way too many results, move to Step 5.

Step 5: Change it up

Changing up your search strategy is an important part of the research process:

  • Change up your search terms:

    • Use the search results you're seeing to try out new terms
    • Apply different Subject filters
    • Add one of these search booster keywords to find results that answer specific questions about your topic:
      • Impact: what's the effect?
      • Statistics: how many?
      • Demographics: who?
      • Timeline: when did this happen?
      • History: what has happened over time?
      • Outcome: what are the results?
  • Search in a new database:

    • Find a subject-specific database that fits your topic
    • Search in IUCAT to find books or ebooks with relevant chapters
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