Start by selecting a topic that meets assignment requirements:
The best approach for this assignment is to define a problem, then focus on one possible solution.
To find sources, we need a search strategy - a plan for what keywords to search and where to find information.
What concepts are most important? If you add too may keywords to the search, you will not get good results. If you only have one major topic, your research question may be too broad. If you have four or more major concepts, your research question may be too narrow.
Sometimes the first word you think of for a major concept isn't the best keyword to search. For example, searching for "student-parent" gives mostly results about parents of schoolchildren, not about students who are also parents. A search for "parenting students" will give better results. Avoid vague words or those that could have different meanings.
Different combinations of keywords will give different results. Try several different search strategies to see which give the best results.
Now you have some search strategies to try when searching for books and articles. You will not know which search strategies are best until you start searching. Pay attention to the number and relevance of results you get. A good search strategy should give you a small number of highly-relevant results.
Aim for around 50-500 results. If you get fewer, the search may be too specific. If you get more, the search may be too broad.
These are real examples from Academic Search Complete, limited to full-text articles from the past ten years. Imagine sorting through the results for each search. Which search strategy would you try first?
|sleep AND college students||625|
|sleep hygiene AND college students||58|
|sleep hygiene AND college students AND sleep cycle||1|
[sleep hygiene AND college students] is the best search to try first. It will give results that focus on solutions to sleep problems for college students, but it is not so specific that you would get too few results.
Once your number of results is reasonable, you can scan the first page of results to see if they are relevant to your project. Do you see results that will be useful? If not, try adjusting the keywords in your search strategy. If you find relevant results, pay attention to the words they use. Those might be good keywords to try in new searches. For example, if you see the phrase "sleep hygiene" in several articles, that might be a good word to try in a search.