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UCOR 1100 : Art for Social Change (Fall 2023)

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Student Engagement Librarian

Readings, Links, and Videos

For a comprehensive introduction to library research and information literacy, visit our Research Toolkit!

This guide covers common topics for introductory library research including:

  • topic development
  • developing search strategies
  • use of databases and the Library catalog to find sources
  • recognizing different types of sources
  • source evaluation
  • citation basics
  • how to get help from the Library
  • links to upcoming events and online collections

The Search Process

Graphic depicting the Search Process: 1.	Construct a search strategy: a.	Define your topic. b.	Identify keywords and phrases related to your topic. c.	Brainstorm alternative keywords: different spellings, related terms, broader terms, or narrower terms. d.	Identify subject areas which your topic might fall under. 2.	Test your search: a.	Test out your keywords or phrases in the relevant databases. b.	Not coming up with anything? Try the alternate keywords you brainstormed.  c.	Or use the following tricks to refine your search: i.	Phrase searching: “flea collar”. ii.	Boolean operators: AND, OR, NOT. 3.	Refine your search: a.	Once you find a book or article that is on target, use it to help further refine your search, or to locate potential new sources: i.	Use the Subject line in records to link to other books or articles on the same subject. ii.	Look at the reference list to find other books or articles.

Use key terms

Jot down the main terms that relate to your research question. Include terms that are broader or narrower than your topic. These terms are called key terms (or keywords), and they are the words you will use when you search for sources. It is helpful to keep track of these in your notes and add terms that work well to your list as you come upon them in your research.

Example research question: How can companion animals improve health?

Key terms: pets, pet therapy, companion animals, therapeutic use, health, health benefits, chronic illness

For complicated or more involved research, it may be helpful to organize and keep track of your terms in a chart:

An image of a grid depicting an example of keywords and related concepts: 1.	Use the top row for main themes or concepts: a.	The themes in the top row include: Companion Animals, Health, Therapy, and Improve. 2.	Fill in the columns with related synonyms or concepts: a.	The column under Companion Animals includes the related concept: Pets. b.	The column under Health includes the related concepts: Health Benefits, Wellness, Wellbeing, and Chronic Illness. c.	The column under Therapy includes the related concepts: Pet Therapy, and Therapeutic Use. d.	The column under Improve includes the related concepts: Benefit and Impact.


Brainstorming Keywords

It's helpful to have a variety of keywords to choose from, so you can adjust your search until you find results that match your topic. Being able to search for synonyms and related terms, as well as knowing how to search for broader or narrower terms, will increase your chances of finding an appropriate set of relevant results. 

Example Keyword: Orca  
Narrower term: Juvenile Orca, Broader term: Whale, Similar term: Killer Whale, Related term: Marine Biology

A graphic depicting different types of keywords: Title: Using Different Types of Keywords: 1.	Narrow Terms to find more specific information. 2.	Broad Terms to find more general information. 3.	Similar Terms to make sure you’re thinking of synonyms. 4.	Related Terms to find information on related topics.