Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research at CSU-Pueblo

From Research Question to Search Strategy

In Chapter 2, we discussed how to transform a research topic into a research question. In this chapter, you'll practice translating your research question into a search strategy.

The Purpose of a Search Strategy

Consider how much information is available electronically. Researchers Antal van den Bosch, Toine Bogers, and Maurice de Kunder conducted a study to measure the size of the internet. You can see the results of their research at In June 2018, the Internet was at least 4.5 billion webpages! Making a search strategy will enable you to sort through information and find exactly what you're looking for.

The term "scope" defines the breadth of the search. You can narrow the scope of your search by choosing to search in a single specialized database (see Chapter 5: Search Tools).

Search Terms

Databases will try to match your search terms exactly. By using the right terminology (gathered during the background reading stage) you can narrow results.

Advanced Search

Most databases have two types of search boxes: a basic search, and an advanced search. Advanced search allows you to construct complex searches by combining several search terms and phrases at once. You can also use advanced search to exclude certain words or phrases, further narrowing your results.

Concept Table

A concept table is a helpful tool for organizing the key concepts and terms related to your research question. Each row of the table represents a single concept. By adding the rows together, you combine all the concepts that make up your research question into a single, comprehensive search. The next sections in this chapter will walk you through the process of identifying terms for your search strategy, and at the end, you'll compile your work into a concept table.

This page has paths: