Module 7

A Search Strategy for Research Papers and Speeches

To complete this module Read the Objectives. Read the module contents below and review previous modules as needed. 

A search strategy is an organized plan for gathering information. Developing a search strategy will help you locate appropriate information from a variety of sources. For a research paper or speech, the following is a useful search strategy:

  • Choose a topic that interest you and that is:
    • not to broad- with hundreds of books and articles written about it, as in the examples below:
      • AIDS, drug abuse, South Africa, Civil War
    • not to narrow- with nothing or only one or two articles written about it, as in the examples below:
      • the effect of drug abuse on the athletic performance of 18-year-old hockey players in Argentina
      • a comparison of the marketing strategies of two barber shops in Montpelier, VT
  • Use general sources, such as encyclopedias (See Background Information in Module 3) or textbooks, to define and focus the topic, develop an overview and gather background information. The bibliographies in these sources are usually excellent starting points, since they provide a list of books and articles that are not only pertinent, but also authoritative. 
  • Identify the main concepts of your topic and generate a list of search terms and subject headings for each. Use these search terms to search the topic in reference books, the VSC library catalog, and research databases.
    • Identify the main concepts- the effect of television viewing on aggressive behavior in teenagers
    • Make a list of additional keywords or phrases for each concept
    • television viewing aggressive behavior teenagers
        aggression adolescents
  • Search the VSC library catalog (See Using the VSC Library Catalog in Module 3) under the appropriate subject headings and keywords to find books and audiovisual materials in the Castleton University Library. Be sure to see if there are any bibliographies listed. These should be examined first. Also, when you find a good book in the VSC Catalog, check items with the same subject or browse through books nearby on the shelf to find additional books.
  • Locate Research Databases (See Periodical Articles in Module 3) to find useful journal, magazine, and newspaper articles on the topic. Be sure to consult a reference librarian to identify appropriate databases for your topic.
  • Use Periodical Locator to determine whether periodicals are available at the Castleton University Library or online
  • Locate materials published by the U.S. Government (See Government Information in Module 3.
  • Locate biographical material (See Biographical Information in Module 3), when appropriate, by using biographical indexes.
  • Locate statistical resources (See Statistical Information in Module 3), when appropriate, to provide statistics on your topic.
  • Search the Internet (See Using Internet Sources in Module 4). Be sure to keep a copy of what you find if you refer to it or cite it; it might not be there when you or your professor go back to verify its existence!
  • Evaluate all sources (See Evaluating Sources of Information in Module 5) carefully, especially information you find on the Internet.