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IAFS 4930 International Affairs Internship: Find



Questions that can help you define you research goals:

  • "What am I trying to say?" 
  • "Who cares and why do they care?"  
  • "How is this research relevant to my internship work?"
  • "How can I learn more about this field of work through my research?" 

Writing down your thoughts and talking to someone else about what you are thinking about can be really helpful. Answering these questions can help you define what information you are looking for and where you might find it.

Tip! You want you research to help define your paper, but it helps to have an idea of what you are trying to say. Example: Water in Nicaragua. Are we talking about urban or rural water, drinking or agricultural, potency, or use?   

Find background information about your topic. Background information helps you to quickly identify trends, keywords, and major themes in an area. These sources are not comprehensive, but are good places to help you begin you thought process. 

This is where Wikipedia and Google are helpful. The more you read the easier it will be to find the right information. You don't usually cite Wikipedia, but use it to help frame you research question.

Tip! If you find something on Wikipedia that seems really helpful, check out the sources on that Wikipedia page.

Tip! Remember Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Encyclopedias give an overview of a topic, but they are not in depth. Which means they are not usually used in academic papers.     

Research is a process. Research is not just about finding things that support your argument, is is also about finding out what is being said. As you do research you will find more information that might lead to more questions or ideas. Taking the time to explore these will make your paper better.

Tip! If you are having a hard time starting, start with a basic search about your topic, read some articles and find something that interests you. Often you will find inspiration about what you are trying to say by reading what others have said. 

Tip! There is not one article that is going to say everything you want it to, but there are some that will support what you are trying to say and it may be a small part of the whole article. 

Example: I want to talk about the role women have in households in rural Nicaragua, but I can only find an article that talks about birthing at home with out the aid of medical care. This article explains that one of the reasons for this is mistreatment by male medical staff and that many women lack the voice to report mistreatment. While this does not directly talk about women's role in the household, it does give us an understanding of how women are treated in society. If women are marginalized by society it is likely that they are marginalized in the household. It also raises questions about the role of men in the family and maybe rather than talking about the household, I want to talk about women’s roles and standing in Nicaraguan society as a whole.  Link



Unlike Google, most academic databases do not search phrases or whole questions very well. When using databases you will need to narrow your research concepts down to search or key words.

Key words are words that describe a concept or idea on their own. For example, if we were looking for information about an area of land that has low precipitation and a hot climate, the key word might be desert. Combining them together helps us to link concepts in our searches.  


Research Concept: I am interested in the way water is used and distributed in rural Nicaragua.  

  • Possible Keywords:  water, agriculture, Nicaragua, farming, industry, water rights, drinking water, rural, pollution
  • Search phrase in a database: Nicaragua AND water AND agriculture AND pollution


Tips for getting keywords: 

  1. Ask yourself; "What am I really trying to talk about?" Be specific. Water in Nicaragua is too broad, so what specific aspect about water interests me? 
  2. Write down your ideas, what seems to be the most important part of your idea or question?
  3. Talk to someone about your topic, what words keep coming up in your conversation?
  4. Do background research. This is when to use Wikipedia, what words keep coming up? Does Wikipedia use a specific word for your concept.
  5. Start with a search and see what you can find. If you find something that seems helpful, look at the words being used by the writer. Also, most databases will show you the keywords associated with each article, this can be a good place to find more keywords.   

Source Types


  • Scholarly articles are written by academic experts.  It keeps others working in their field updated on the latest research and developments. These articles are typically published in peer-reviewed journals. Peer review means that, before a journal publishes an article, is it reviewed by a group of researchers in the same field as the author.
  • Primary sources are firsthand accounts.  Examples include: government and NGO reports, diaries, journals, letters, interviews, conference proceedings, creative works such as songs, photographs, as well as raw research results.