Module 3 - Module 3 Commentary Page 1 of 13 Module 3...

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Module 3: Developing Effective Search Strategies: Searching Tips and Techniques Overview In this module, you will take an in-depth look at identifying the main ideas of your research question, and at techniques for searching databases. Objectives After completing this module, you should be able to: identify the main concepts of a research question and begin assigning related terms choose keywords and develop effective search strategies for your research topic refine your search strategies to achieve relevant results Commentary Topics Identifying the Main Ideas and Related Terms Searching for Information Refining a Search Identifying the Main Ideas and Related Terms Keywords Once you have come up with a research question or thesis statement, the next step is to identify the key concepts or main ideas. You will use these concepts to begin your search for relevant research sources. These words, often nouns, that express the key concepts/main ideas are usually referred to as keywords. The more specific your keywords, the better chance you will have in finding the most relevant sources for your research. You will want to avoid using verbs, adjectives, or adverbs because they are not specific enough words to find useful sources. Keywords are different from controlled vocabulary. Controlled vocabulary, or subject terms, are terms an indexer or author assigns to a database record to describe the main focus of that particular source. To search using controlled vocabulary you must search within the subject or descriptor fields. When performing a keyword search you are searching for the terms in multiple fields, usually the title, author, and abstract fields, and sometimes the full- text and subject/descriptor fields of the article or book. When searching the Web with keywords usually the full text of the Web page is searched. Unless you are certain of the controlled vocabulary for a particular database begin with a keyword search. When using keywords make sure that any phrases are placed inside Page 1 of 13 Module 3 Commentary 5/26/2011 http://tychousa3.umuc.edu/UCSP611/1102/Modules/M3-Module_3/S1-Commentary.html?...
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quotation marks. If you do not do this the database may return results with all of the keywords included, but they may be totally unrelated to each other in the results. In addition, you do not need to use stop words, which are common words, such as prepositions, conjunctions, and common verbs. Many databases and search engines eliminate some stop words from a search in order to speed up and simplify searching. The word was coined many years ago when searching on these words would result in a search that timed out, or stopped (hence, stop words ). Stop words vary with the database. Table 3.1 lists the words that most databases generally recognize as stop words.
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