Algonquin College - Library

Research Guide

Use this guide to help you with every stage of the writing process

Step 2: Plan Your Search

Planning your research will help you find relevant resources when you conduct your search. The background information that you found when defining your topic can help you to think of appropriate search terms This section will help you plan your research and search terms.

Tips

  • Look at Wikipedia.Online encyclopedias like Wikipedia are good sources to begin with, and may lead you to new concepts to search for more credible academic sources. Be sure to evaluate the resources you find.
  • Get an overview of the topic.Look at major article on the topic to get a sense of the major points.
  • Record your sources.Make sure you keep track of good articles you find and save the citation (see citations tools in citation guide)
  • Check out the library’s Subject guides.These guides are a good starting point for research, and include suggested digital resource collection for your search.
  • Use a Thesaurus.Write down synonyms for your search terms. They may help you find relevant resources.
(Wikipedia Logo used under a the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License)

Gather Background Information

Start by gathering some background information about the subject. Look at sources such as the following to find out about your topic.

I tried the following sources for information:

  • In Britannica Online: I found an article that provides a good overview about different causes, political issues, etc.
  • Library Digital Resources: I found digital resource collections on science and the environment, as well as subject guides with recommendations of books, articles, websites and more.

Think about Search Terms

Use your background information to think of appropriate search terms. Brainstorm every possible search term for your topic.Try to think of synonyms and related words for each keyword to help broaden or narrow your search.

Look at your topic. For example: ‘Are Canadian youth politically engaged?’ The keywords in this topic would be Canadian, youth, and political engagement.

These keywords can become

  • Canadian → Canada
  • Youth → "young people", "young adults", or adolescents
  • "Political engagement" → vote, voting, politics, elections, or "political participation"

My research question was ‘Can alternative energy sources help stop global warming?’

For this question, the keywords would be alternative energy sources, and global warming. So, some search terms could be:

  • global warming → climate change, temperature change, greenhouse effect
  • alternative energy sources → sustainable energy, renewable energy source, alternative fuels or environmental technology