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Communication Research Guide

Speech Resources

Basic Search Tips

Your search strategies will depend partly on the research tools you use. Here are some search tips to get you started.

  • Limit the number of search terms that you use. Start with only 2 or 3 search terms.
  • Use search terms that best express your topic. Avoid non-essential terms like "the" and "of."
  • Try multiple searches. Experiment with related terms, including broader or narrower terms.
  • Explore the database's Advanced Search options.
  • On the search results page, look for ways to refine your search.

(Adapted from Rowan University Research Guides)

1. Identify the important nouns or main ideas in your research question. 

  • Research Question: What is the effect of incorrect health information on social media?

2. Generate synonyms for each main term, along with words that are narrower, broader, and related.

  • Incorrect information: deceit, manipulation, lies, false, slander, misinformation
  • Social media: online, web, internet, web 2.0, online social networks
  • Health: wellness, doctor, physical wellbeing, medical

3. Start searching and modify your search terms as necessary. 

  • Pay attention to titles, abstracts, and headings used in the results you find helpful.
  • Some databases provide lists of subject terms, subject headings, or keywords for individual sources. See if you can find those to help add to your own list.

Watch this video from the University of Houston Libraries to learn more about this process:

One of the best ways to find more sources is through citation chaining. With citation chaining, you find other sources that an original source has referenced as well as other articles that have cited it since it was written. These citations create a "web" of related sources.

Search Tip: Type in your article title or topic. On the search results page, select "References" to see what future articles have cited that particular article. To see what articles an article has cited in its reference page, select the article title, and find the "Cited References" section.

The following database includes this feature. 

If you are getting 0 search results, try some of these strategies.

  • Is this the best database for your topic? Be prepared to try several different databases. 
  • Use good search terms. Check spelling and brainstorm synonyms or related terms. You can use OR between synonyms (for example: salary OR pay OR compensation). 
  • Too many search terms. If you have three or more search terms, try removing one to see if your results improve.
  • Too many limiters. Use only limiters that are absolutely necessary.
  • Your topic is too narrow. What is the broader theme of your topic? Break your topic down and search for different parts separately. For example, if you are comparing primary school education in China and Spain, search for articles about each country separately. Then synthesize the information you find.