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ENG 111: College Composition I (Russo-Loudoun)

This guide has been created by librarians to help you find books, articles, videos, and other types of resources related to this program of study. Direct comments to Julie Combs,

Getting Started with Research

1. Do you prefer taking notes on paper or on a computer? How will you keep track of your research?

2. Have you selected a topic? Once you have a general topic in mind, brainstorm 5-10 related search terms BEFORE you start your research. This will help you define your thesis statement.

For example: Search terms for Racial Inequality could include specific instances of inequality between races such as incarceration rate* or wealth disparity. Search terms for Immigration could include related words or terms like refugee*, undocumented, DACA; Search terms can also include names of people, events, or places: while researching Climate Change you could use terms like Greta Thunberg, Paris Agreement, or Hurricane Ida.

*See Creating Your Search Statements for more ideas about how to search your topic most effectively.

3. Save what you find (print it or email it to yourself) and keep it in a place you can easily find it again.


Creating Your Search Statements

Once you have your research question or research topic, what strategies should you use to get the most relevant results in the shortest amount of time?

Let's say this is your thesis statement:

Social media promotes anxiety among teenagers.

First, identify the key concepts. These are the most important concepts in the statement. Typically these are nouns.

Social media promotes anxiety among teenagers.

Next, you want to identify related terms for each of the key concepts. Different authors may write about the same subjects using different terms, so cast a wide net and add lots of words to your list.

(Note: adding an asterisk* at the end of a word tells the database to look for expanded versions of that word; for example, teen* will automatically search for teen, teens, teenage, teenager, and teenagers.)

Social media anxiety teenagers


Social networks





young adult*



To take it to the next level: Try "nesting" multiple key words within one search. For example:

("Social media" OR Facebook OR "Social network*") AND (anxiety OR stress) AND (teen* OR adolescent*)

This tells the database: Find me sources that have at least one of the terms representing each of my three key concepts.

Remember that research is an iterative process: What you learn during a search can inform your next search. Your initial ideas for a thesis statement may look very different from your final thesis statement, because of what you've learned during your research.