Graduate TESOL Education Guide

How to go about researching a topic

In order to create a search strategy first determine search terms or keywords. By taking a research topic, break it into the main ideas. 

Sample research topic/question:

What are the benefits of studying abroad while you are in a in an undergraduate or graduate program?

Main ideas:

  • benefits

  • studying abroad

  • undergraduate

  • graduate

  • university

Try a table as you think about keywords and to help construct your search strategy.

Limiters

Strategic Searching

Try a table as you think about keywords and to help construct your search strategy.

Main Idea 1

Main Idea 2

Main Idea 3

Main Idea 4

Enter concepts/keyword terms

benefits

AND

studying abroad

AND

graduates

AND

university

OR

OR

OR

OR

Any others?

reasoning

AND

exchange programs 

AND

undergraduates

AND

colleges

OR

OR

OR

OR

More?

positive attributes

AND

study abroad

AND

students

AND

global

OR

OR

OR

OR

Even More?

benetf*   exchange program*   university students   outside USA

Going down a column, you list terms that all relate to that main idea.
Going across rows, you join together terms that relate to each of your different main ideas.
Let’s look at how to join like terms to expand a search and how to join different topics to focus it.

Boolean searches:

OR, AND (NOT is also a Boolean operator but let’s leave that off for now)

OR - If desired, you can go down the columns to create an "OR string" of like variables. This is especially helpful when you have several terms that are used to refer to one concept or if you want to be specific on types or brands of something. 

For example: benefits AND study abroad AND graduates AND university

AND – Use "and" to combine different concepts. Try combining a term from Main idea columns 1, 2, & 3 with AND. You may want to start with only one main idea at time and then try adding another and so on. 

More Searching Tips

  • Don't forget your limiters – peer-reviewed, publication date specifications, format or source type (book, journal article, video, news, review), etc. as appropriate or otherwise directed by your professor.

  • Multi-word phrases - like "government shutdown" - can be placed in quotation marks to tell a search tool to find those words next to each other as if they were a single word rather than spread around randomly throughout a title or document. This is called “phrase searching.”