Spend some time trying to understand what your instructor wants. For example, you may be asked to write a research paper on a particular aspect of something broader you are discussing in class. It may help to jump into a background resource to get a broad understanding of the topic again. A background resource might be an online encyclopedia of some kind.
Take notes as you read the background source. Did your brain gravitate to any particular angle on the topic? Is this something you could pursue in your paper?
The table below is an example on how to brainstorm related, synonymous, and adjacent terms that might help you find great sources! The words you use access different information from different communities.
Example research topic: gentrification (and what about it??)
|main words||main topic: gardening||focus/angle: economics|
|synonyms & helpful terms||
planting, agrology. agronomics. agronomy. farming.
urban environment, city environment,
metropolitan environment, built-up environment
Here is an example using some of the words we brainstormed in the previous part of our process:
(Want to see? The demo search is available.)
By skimming your first page of results, you will get a sense of whether your combination of search words was helpful. If there is not one single helpful result on the page, go back to your word brainstorm and replace an old search word with a new one. Here are some things to consider when looking at the results of a search:
Did you read your first few sources? Really REALLY read them? Good! Your brain is probably swirling with ideas! Good ones, bad ones, annoyed ones, anxious ones.
You will find results that did not come up last time, and your search words will be even more specific to your interest, and this will help you find what you need to write your paper. By giving your brain room to think deeply, you can find even more sources to include in your project, and they will help you write an amazing research paper.
Good luck! We are here in the library and ready to help. Visit us today!