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SPARK: Research Strategies

A resource for students wanting to improve their academic and research skills.

Research Strategies

Use the options in the drop down menu under the "Research Strategies" tab to select a page to view, or use the "previous" and "next" buttons at the bottom of each page to work through the modules in order.

Creating a Research Strategy

This module will address how to create a library search strategy to help you find resources for your research. Whether you are just starting to think about a research topic or you already have a working topic, it will be helpful to develop a strategy to organize your library search.

As a first step to creating a search strategy, identify the main concepts for your topic or research question. Topics and research questions generally involve relationships among two or more concepts. Your main purpose at this stage is to derive a list of concrete terms that, taken together, capture the essence of your question or topic.

For example, if your topic is “the effects of bullying on academic achievement in girls,” concepts may include bullying, academic achievement and girls.

The term “effects” is too general to be useful at this stage. Instead you might think about what some possible “effects” of bullying on academic achievement are, such as low grades, failure, or poor attendance and use these as potential concepts. In most cases, avoid general terms such as “effects,” “challenges,” “consequences,” “advantages,” “disadvantages,” “pros” and “cons”.

Review the sections below to see more examples of how to identify concepts for a topic or research question.

Concepts: Example 1

Discuss the advantages of art therapy as a treatment for traumatized children in war zones.

 Possible concepts: 

  • art therapy
  • children
  • war zones

 Less Useful Choices:

  • advantages (too general, applies to many different topics)
  • therapy (too broad, applies to many different treatments beyond the treatment of interest)
  • art (too broad, does not capture the essence of the topic)

Concepts: Example 2

Choose one aboriginal group and discuss its challenges in asserting control over ancestral land.

 Possible concepts:

  • aboriginals
  • control
  • ancestral land

Less Useful Choice:

  • challenges (too general, applies to many different topics)