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UNIV 100: Freshman Seminar

This guide is for freshmen students currently taking University 100.

Developing a Research Strategy for Your Topic

What is your assignment prompt? What questions do you need to answer about the topic?

Brainstorm for keywords and key phrases that express the major concepts or issues involved, including synonyms and related terms.


Topic/Prompt: To what extent, if any, is the fast food industry responsible for American obesity?

Keywords and key phrases: fast food, obesity, Americans.

Keywords and key phrases for related issues: obesity epidemic, diet, nutrition, children, adults, fast food marketing, advertising, schools, television, "junk food," diabetes, heart disease, exercise, lawsuits, McDonald's.

Searching strategy:

Use combinations of keywords that represent the key concepts you are interested in. Remember to join your key words and key phrases together with and. It is often necessary to do several different searches to gather articles relevant to your topic.

Examples of Keyword Searches: fast food and obesity; fast food and lawsuits; obesity and children; schools and fast food; fast food and advertising and television

Watch this video for more info on how to develop your search strategy:

Search Strategy

Ways to Narrow Your Topic

Having trouble narrowing your topic or coming up with keywords? Try answering these these questions....

  • What group of people are you focusing on? (race, culture, gender, age, college students) 
  • When is your topic taking place? (time period) 
  • Where is your topic taking place? (geography/location, United States, Los Angeles, University) 
  • Can you attach any viewpoint? (political, ethical, medical, historical, economical, social viewpoint) 
  • What is the cause or effect of your topic? (be specific, the words cause and effect don't make great keywords) 


Search Tips

Boolean Searches

  • AND: searches for all of the search terms.  Using *and* in between search terms will narrow your search.  For example
    • women and prohibition  
  • OR: searches for at least one of the search terms.  Using *or* in between search terms will broaden your search. For example: 
    • women or female 
    • prohibition or temperance 
  • NOT: excludes the search term immediately after the NOT operator.  Therefore, use "not" in front of a term to ensure that the search will not include that term. For example: 
    • alcohol not drugs 
  • Phrase searches
    • Please quotation marks (“ “) around the words that you want to be search together as a phrase. For example:
      • "Eighteenth Amendment" 
      • "Women's Christian Temperance Movement" 
  • Wildcard searches
    • The use of the asterisk (*) is a wildcard that most databases all you to use to search a root word and variable endings to broaden search results.  For example: 
      • latin* (retrieves "latin," "latins," "latino," "latinos," "latina," "latinas")

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