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JRNL 3804 (Simpson): Sports, Media, and Society: How to search a database

Library Research

Here are some basic steps to follow for doing research. For more assistance, please see the Library's guide to Research Strategies or contact your librarian.

  1. Identify your topic. You can do this by searching online for things you are interested in to see what is "out there." By doing an internet search, you can get some idea of what is currently known about your topic and who is researching it.
    1. Take note of the words used to describe ideas, events, scientific discoveries. These words can help you develop an initial list of search terms when searching for your topic in databases.
  2. Databases don't work like Google. You have to come up with specific terms to search for articles on a given topic (these are often called "key terms" by librarians.)
    1. To do this, think of all the words that could be used to describe important aspects of your topic and try to identify likely synonyms and words used by people who do research on your topic.
      1. For example, if you are interested in how concussions affect athletes, you might start listing terms for "concussion," which could include "traumatic brain injury" or just "brain injury" or "brain swelling" or "cerebral edema." Your terms for "athlete" could vary as well. You could try "sports," "athletics," "impact sports," or specific sports such as "football" or "rugby" where concussions are more frequent. Additionally, you could look for long term effects, which could include terms such as "long term side effects" or "functional changes," "neurological deficits," "cognitive deficits," "persistent post-concussive symptoms," or "post-concussion syndrome." Other possible areas to explore would be "treatment" or "recovery."
  3. Select a database that covers your area of interest. Some databases are for general, all-purpose searching (such as Academic Search Premier) and others are more specific to a subject area (like Communication and Mass Media Complete.) If you go to the library's research guides, you can see a list of the best databases to search for different subject areas.
  4. Try different terms that you have identified for your search.
    1. If possible, use different search "rows" to separate your ideas. (This image shows separate search rows.)
    2. If you use one search row, separate your search terms by "AND" so that you are searching for all the articles that mention your first term ("concussion" AND "long-term effects.")
  5. Use filters to limit your search by date, source type (you'll want "scholarly journals" or "academic journals" when looking for that type of resource!), language, or subject area (which refers to the subject heading

Communication Librarian

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Elizabeth Novosel