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Basic Research

This guide is intended to help you learn about conducting research.

Developing Your Search Terms

Now that you have a basic idea for your topic and a handful of terms to get started, it's time to begin the research process. Let's look at two ways of finding general scholarly information- they are both useful while you are in the early stages of the process, but both have limitations that we'll talk more about in the next section. 

Articles+ is the all-in-one search box that lives on our library homepage. From this search box, you can type in your terms and get a list of articles that are available to you as an HSU student.

Google Scholar is another good all-in-one place where you can search for scholarly articles and books. You can link Google Scholar to the HSU collection from 'Library Links' in the Settings (see the short video on this page to see how).

When you enter search terms there are a couple of things to keep in mind because these searches will not be like the typical Google search. The search engine will look for all of the terms you use and provide a list of articles that include all of those terms. Consider these examples:

BAD:

how to deal with racist imagery in professional sports mascots and team names
Only enter terms that are specific to your search. Avoid phrasing the terms in a sentence- all of the terms you use will determine your list of results. Use only those terms that are most useful.

BETTER:

racist imagery sports

BAD:

sports mascot racism baseball basketball football college high school professional
Don't start off with too many terms. Starting out with too many terms will give you too few results and possibly no results. This example will only include articles that are about football, basketball and baseball (all three, not just one of the three).
It is best to start with a broad search and add more terms to narrow the search results later. Start out with just the most useful 2-3 terms.

BETTER:

sports mascot racism

Try it out!

Go ahead and choose 2 or 3 of the most useful and specific terms from your list. Try them in the search boxes on this page in both Articles+ and Google Scholar. Compare the two and take a look at a couple of the results. Is there anything that looks interesting that you want to use to narrow your search? Write down any new terms or ideas that you want to add to your search later. Save any interesting papers you find.

What next?

So far, we've only talked about brainstorming and thinking about search terms- but how do we actually use them? 

Articles+

Google Scholar

From off campus, customize Google Scholar Library Links under Settings to include Humboldt State University Library - FindIt@HSU.