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ASC 101 - Brian Mikelbank: Making Connections

Making Connections

Making connections between what you already know about a topic and what you need to know is part of the research process. The exercises here will help you to develop effective search strategies in order to locate high quality sources, both from the library's collections and from other sources.

Other strategies

You can also use sources you have already found to inform your research strategy. Consult the citations or links that your article references.

This can connect you to other sources directly, as well as giving you clues on important non-library sources that might be useful. Keep an eye out in your articles for names of experts, researchers, non-profit organizations or research institutions, or companies that might have more information about your topic.

*Many non-profit and research organizations and experts may have a specific cause that they are promoting through their research. Every web page should have an "About" section that clearly defines the organization's positions and motivation for their work. This doesn't mean you have to discount any information from such organizations, but you have to consider how their values could alter how they present their research.

It's a good idea to ask questions about the research you find.

Is the source helping you to answer your research question? Does it leave parts of the question unanswered? Does it make you ask other questions? You can use your reactions to reading the article to supply you with new keywords and search strategies. It may even open up another research topic.

Research Guides and Personal Librarians

Every academic program at Cleveland State University has its very own Personal Librarian. Librarians work students and faculty in their subject areas to promote information literacy, deliver helpful instruction, and provide research consultations. You can see the list of Personal Librarians here.

Librarians are also responsible for the Research Guides. Research Guides contain a summary of helpful library and other information resources for a subject, and many times individual classes. Locate a research guide other than this one that might guide you on this research question. 

Generating Keywords

Keywords are the search terms you will use to find relevant sources in the library's book catalog and article databases.

Before you start developing keywords, you should consider what it is you are looking for. Take your research question or thesis statement and pick out the main concepts you think are important. For example, if my research question was:

Should teenagers be tried in court as adults for non-violent crimes?

The important concepts are teenagers, court, adults, non-violent crimes.

However, for each of these words, authors may use a variety of terms in their place.

Teenagers: adolescent, teen, juvenile, teenage, minor, 13-18, high schooler, etc.

You might also thinking about broader and narrower terms. You can use broader terms for when you are not getting enough results, or if your results are too specific and narrow. You can use narrower terms if you are getting too many results, or they are not focused enough.

Non-violent crime: narrower terms might include specific crimes like theft, larceny, vandalism, or drug and alcohol related crimes, or a type of crime, like property crime. Broader terms might refer to crimes in general.