The first step, whether using an academic indexing database or Google Scholar, is to create a search strategy and concept map. That requires analyzing the concepts included in your paper or project topic. Take the following example, typical of what might be assigned for a group project in a variety of different classes:
In recent years, there has been much discussion of “weapons of mass destruction”,
including biological warfare. During World War 2, Great Britain conducted experiments
with anthrax spores on a small offshore island called Gruinard. In your project report,
examine and discuss the following aspects –
Describe the experiments and their results.
Were there any impacts on British military/political policies?
Were there any ecological or environmental impacts?
How were any such impacts remedied?
Was there ever any proof that two of the Axis powers [Germany/Japan] used
biological weapons such as anthrax?
B A S I C C O N C E P T S
Gruinard Anthrax World War 2 experiments results politics Germany
Then refine those concepts to include other words [synonyms] an author might use to describe different parts, and also to eliminate ideas which may not be necessary for your search. In this case, because the main assignment focuses on the specific case of Gruinard Island, the idea of World War 2 may not be necessary for some parts of the assignment, but could be necessary for others.
E X P A N D E D C O N C E P T S
Gruinard Anthrax experiment* result* ecolog* politic*
Anthracis environment* militar*
The question whether Germany/Japan ever actually used anthrax as a weapon is a separate idea which should be dealt with as a different concept.
R E L A T E D C O N C E P T S
Anthrax German* “world war”
In both concept maps, the asterisk * is used as a truncation symbol to find different endings on a basic word or partial word. Thus –
German* will find the words German/Germans/Germany/Germany’s/Germanic
Japan* will find Japan/Japan’s/Japanese
Result* will find result/results/resulted/resulting
“world war” must be enclosed in “…..quotes…..” to indicate the words must be side-by-side as a phrase.
These two concept maps can now be used to create search strategies guiding your search for information. It may be necessary to add / remove keywords to refine these strategies as your research proceeds.
What results can be found in the “academic” databases?