In this tutorial, we will be using a general database called Academic Search Premier. This database was created by a company called EBSCO, which publishes a lot of different databases in a lot of different disciplines, and the library subscribes to a bunch of them. All EBSCO databases look the same, so you can use the same techniques that we’re discussing today no matter if you’re searching generally or in a more specific database related to your topic.
These tricks work in other library databases as well, even though they look different. If you’re confused about how to apply these techniques in a specific database, just ask a librarian!
To start, write out your problem/solution topic as a question. What are hoping to discover, prove, convince your reader of? Like your instructor recommends, pick a topic you enjoy! You’re more likely to make a convincing argument for a topic you are interested in, and it makes the class more fun!
If you can’t write your topic as a question, it might mean that you need to define or narrow your topic further. For example, “College Stress” is so broad you might write a book instead of a five-page paper! If you’re having trouble narrowing your topic, use these limiters:
- limit your topic to a particular population or age group, such as infants, teenagers, college students, etc.;
- limit your topic to a particular environment, such as schools or geographic region;
- limit your topic by chronological era;
- or limit your topic by a particular theory or approach.
Now you have your research question, ask yourself:
- Can the answer to my question be found in a single source?
- Is the answer to my question a simple “yes” or “no” answer?
- Does my question require information contained in highly technical journals written in language I might struggle with?
- Is my question so unusual or lacking of clear evidence that it would be difficult to research?
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