Indigenous People and Anthropology

Course #: ID/SOJE205-BR

The Research Process

Identify a Research Question

It is best to start your research with a question in mind. This question will help you identify the main concepts for your topic and you can use those to identify the best keywords. For this guide my research question is "What are the challenges facing the Haida in their repatriation of ancestors and cultural heritage stored in museums?"

Once I have created a researchable question (it is not too broad or too narrow), the next step is to identify the main concepts of my question and use those concepts to identify the best keywords.

Creating Effective Search Strategies

Main Concepts

These are the main ideas represented in your research question. For my research question the main concepts are Haida AND repatriation AND "cultural heritage" (antiquities could be another concept for this topic).

For more information about identifying main concepts you might find the online tutorial Identifying Concepts Related to a Topic helpful.


Keywords are the words you think everyone else would use to find information if they were researching the same topic. For the example research question my starting keywords might be films AND archaeology. The first search strategy is always just a starting point.

Using AND/OR to connect your keywords

To search effectively in the catalogue or databases you will need to connect your keywords using AND/OR.

AND is used to connect the keywords that capture the different concepts of your research question or topic. AND narrows your search: the more ANDs you have connecting your keywords the fewer records you will pull up in your search, because AND tells the catalogue or database that both keywords must appear in the record for it to be found.

Example: Haida AND repatriation

OR expands your search. The more ORs you have connecting your keywords the more records you will pull up in your search. OR tells the catalogue or database that either of your keywords can appear in the record for it to be found. You use OR to connect the keywords that represent the same concept.

("cultural heritage" OR antiquities)

Building on previous searches and creating methodical research strategies

The keywords Haida AND repatriation are fine as a starting point for my research question but once I find an item that looks good for my topic I would want to check the terms used in Omni or the database to identify the record. These terms are often called either "descriptors" or "subject headings". For my research topic a useful subject heading in Primo will be "Indians of North America". I am more likely to pull up other useful items if I use this search term.

It is important to vary and change your keywords as you switch between the different search tools. Keywords that work well in the Omni may not be as effective in the databases. If you keep using the same keywords over and over again you might be missing out on important sources that could help you write a better paper.

Broader search terms versus more specific search terms

The term "Indigenous peoples" (even though will work better in Omni than in the databases because when searching for books a broader search term will often be more effective than a specific search term. Specific search terms, like Haida, work better in the databases.

Search Tools to Find Books and Articles

Identifying the best search tool to start research

You can start your research in different ways. The best way to begin your search will depend on how much you already know about a topic and the type of information you need. If you are just getting started on a research topic it is often a good idea to start with books.


To find books on a topic I recommend using the advanced search option in Omni. Omni does search for other types of materials and so if you are just beginning your research, it is a good idea to restrict your search to books and ebooks using the "resource type" menu which is located to the right of the search boxes.

Recommended tutorial for finding ebooks

Finding eBooks

Recommended Databases for Research Topics for this Course

Bibliography of Native North Americans

CBCA Complete


Education Source

LexisNexis Academic

America: History & Life

Worldwide Political Science Abstracts

Databases for Interdisciplinary Research Topics

The databases below include many types of materials (popular, scholarly and trade publications). If you need academic peer reviewed articles be sure to restrict your search by checking the box for scholarly / peer reviewed, either before your search or after the search to restrict your search to these publications.

EBSCOhost databases (all)

ProQuest databases (all)

Academic OneFile