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HI 2335: Topics in History of American Science and Technology: Urban Systems

Searching is an iterative process


Because every topic of discipline has its own jargon, coming up with lists of keywords will be an integral part of your search process. The more keywords you use to search, the more accurate and successful your search will be. There are a few different ways to find the right keywords to use in your search, but the first step is to consider your research topic and start there:

Think about what concepts you are looking for. For instance, a research topic of: the effect of Instagram on young people's mental health has three concepts: Instagram, young people, and mental health.

Next steps:

  • Try and come up with a list of synonyms or other related terms for each concept. For instance, young people may also be called youth, teenagers, or young adults. For broad concepts like mental health, think of more specific examples like anxiety or depression. For specific concepts like Instagram, think of broader concepts, like social media. 
  • Do not worry if you cannot come up with a lot of synonyms or related terms on your own. This is a good time to start doing general background research on your topic to help find these words. Start on Google, or try an online encyclopedia. See if you can find related terms there. 
  • Read news articles on your topic. These news articles may reference academic studies. You can use the information provided in the news article to search for the original scholarly article.
  • Once you gather some general information on your research topic, move on to more in-depth resources such as research articles, which you can find in places like the WPI Library Search, Google Scholar, and Library Subject-Specific databases. These articles will often contain (whether in the abstract or full-text) additional helpful keywords you can use to expand your search.