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ANTH 170: Caribbean Voices

First Year Writing Seminar

Craft effective searches starting from a general topic or research question.

  • Activity: brainstorm search terms

Identify and use search tools, i.e. library databases, to locate relevant resources- books, articles and more.

  • Become familiar with library resources & services
  • Identify and select databases based on research interests and needs.
  • Learn the conversations (and questions) around your topic.
    • Who is saying what? Is anyone arguing? Whose voices are the loudest? Whose voices are missing? 
  • Obtain evidence (in various formats, i.e. books, articles, etc.) to inform your contribution to the conversation. 

Database demo & practice 

  • Library Search 
  • Discipline specific databases
  • Multidisciplinary databases

Obtain citation information to appropriately cite sources

  • Citation tools & guides

Wrap Up

  • Ways to get research help

You will likely go through the search process a number of times, performing different searches with different keyword combinations, to address the different components of your topic.

Systematic Searching Handsearching
#1 Identify your question. Identify the key concepts and related terms. Tip:  You may want to re-phrase your question. Background reading can help you identify related terms and further define or narrow your topic.  Explore reference lists to locate other articles, books, or authors who have written on the same topic. 
#2 Find an appropriate search tool. Consider your subject matter, discipline of study, type of information needed (e.g. peer reviewed articles) Locate cited by literature to view more recent similar or adjacent research.

#3 Start with a simple search based on your key concepts. Tip: You may also have to look at literature that refers to one (not all) aspects of your research question.

Browse the table of contents of relevant journals and special issues.

#4 Use specific search strategies.

  • Use AND to join dissimilar terms.
  • Use OR to join synonyms or related terms.
  • Truncate words with * to pick up variations of that word. 
  • Use "quotation marks" for phrase searching
  • Use database limiters e.g. limit to scholarly journals. 
  • Consider searching in a specific field e.g. title (article title) or source (journal title.)
Review bibliographies or reading lists to locate recommended or key resources.
#5 Search and skim results. Look for the language and terms that researchers use and that the database assigns to articles (Subjects). Locate an expert Locate an expert the the field and browse their publications.  
#6 Switch up your searches.  Use promising new terminologyYour search may become more sophisticated.  

SAGE Research Methods is a collection of resources and tools intended to assist researchers as they plan, conduct and analyze their research projects- including step by step directions for conducting a literature review.  

Questions to Consider as you Review the Literature

Transcript of this Graphic


Literature Search and review on your topic

Questions to ask: 

  • What are the key sources?
  • What are the key theories, concepts and ideas?
  • What are the epistemological and ontological grounds for the discipline?
  • What are the main questions and problems that have been addressed? 
  • How is knowledge on the topic structures and organized
  • What are the origins and definitions of the topic?
  • What are the political standpoints?
  • What are the major issues and debates about the topic?

How have approaches to these questions increased our understanding and knowledge? 

Synthesis grids are organizational tools used to record the main concepts of your sources and can help you make connections about how your sources relate to one another.