Advanced Search Techniques
Below, you'll find a number of resources that will help you with the Research Proposal Assignment.
- The research process is broken out below into 6 steps below, with examples of search strategies written out for you.
- You can use these search strategies to navigate through multiple databases for scholarly, peer-reviewed articles.
- There is a video demonstration below using the ProQuest database.
Step 1: Think about your research question and specific search terms
- Developing a research question (video 5:07)
- see also Booth, Wayne C. et al. The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- 2016 ed. (most recent) available in the Reserve section, 2nd floor, 3 hour loan - Q180.55.M4 B66 2016
- 2008 ed. Online edition
- see chapter 3: From Topics to Questions, and chapter 4: From Questions to a Problem
Example research question: What is the effect of property rights for women on poverty rates in southern Africa?
|Concept 1||Concept 2||Concept 3||Concept 4|
|Property ownership||Gender||Income poverty||Mozambique|
|Land rights||Economic development||Zimbabwe|
Step 2: Select out an appropriate database and try some preliminary searches
Go to the Library Subject Guides page and select an appropriate Subject to guide your initial search
- Start with Global Studies; ProQuest, EBSCO, and Web of Science are 3 premier dbs to consult
- Start with some simple searches using keywords as above; look at special subject terms the authors use, found in the abstract
- Avoid typing in questions; this will result in 0 hits in specialized databases
- Limit results to only: peer-reviewed, articles
Step 3: Use Boolean operators AND/OR (NOT) to broaden or narrow your search
(women OR Female) AND ("Property rights" OR "Land ownership") AND (Botswana OR Malawi)
- " " searches for exact phrases
- * at the end of a word retrieves variations of the search term; farm = farms, farmer, farming
- ? - Wildcard, retrieves single variant spellings: wom?n = woman, women
- Getting great results: narrowing your search (video 3:02)
Step 4: Look for existing literature reviews on your topic
- Find a few decent articles and consult the "Literature Review" section
- Try a search with terms such as "review of the literature" OR "literature review" OR "review essay" OR "critical review" OR review
- Broaden the scope of your search to include books; they often have good review chapters
Step 5: Finding "classic" or landmark studies
- Follow the citation trail in articles you find useful; what author(s) are referred to heavily?
- Consult the Web of Science database to find highly cited articles by using the Times Cited feature; these will all be from peer-reviewed, scholarly sources
- Consult a scholarly Companion, Handbook, or Manual for your topic, e.g. The Companion to Development Studies, Routledge, 2014.
- Use Google Scholar, Cited by feature
Step 6: Format your citations for the bibliography in APA style
- Many specialized databases allow you to download in multiple citation styles, esp. ProQuest and EBSCO
- You can easily copy/paste the citation in APA format in ProQuest using the "Cite function at the top right side of the results page
- For further tips on citing on APA style, see:
- Laurier Library's video tutorial, How to cite in APA style
- Purdue University's Online Writing Lab guide to APA style: