Lesson 4

To demonstrate how to develop efficient and comprehensive search strategies for library catalogs and web databases.

book Table of Contents

Defining the Topic

If you have ever written a research paper, you know how important it is to narrow your topic in order to focus the paper and develop the thesis. But there is another good reason for defining your topic: developing a search strategy.

Defining the topic is necessary because a topic which is too broad results in too much information and a topic which is too narrow does not locate enough information. For example, the broad topic voter turnout retrieves 448 results in the Academic Search (EBSCO) database, while the narrower search voter turnout and presidential elections retrieves only 28 results in the same database.

Defining your topic is a recurring task throughout the search process. You may begin with a topic you believe to be sufficiently narrow, but once you search for it discover that too much information is available. This would require you to narrow your topic even further. Not finding enough information would mean that you need to broaden your topic.

To begin defining your topic:

  1. Choose a topic that interests you
  2. Explore the topic's facets by gathering background information from encyclopedias, books and articles
  3. Choose a facet

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