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BIOL 824: Gateway to Graduate Studies in Biology

Research Roadmap

Some things to consider throughout the search process...
  • Define the scope of your project.  
    • Do you need to narrow your topic from a broad, general one?
    • How much has been written about your topic?  If it is a well-studied field, there will be plenty of literature in a wide variety of formats.  If it is a new topic or idea, there may be very little published about it.
    • Do you want to focus on a particular location, time period, technology, theory, person, group, project, or event? 
    • What do you already know about the topic?  What do you need to investigate?
    • Consider the individuals or groups or agencies who have a stake in your topic.  Who publishes information about this topic?  Where does their funding come from?
    • Start a list of keywords to use.  Terminology can change, so this list will need updating as you search.
    • Do background reading to find out more about your topic.Try a general search in Omni to find out the range of books and ebooks published (important when examining a long-established field).
  • Try an initial, very general search in library databases or Google Scholar.  Not sure which databases to use?  Contact your librarian for advice - this will save you time.
    •  Filter by publication year - how long it the publishing history for this field?  Are there any publication trends?
    • Filter by controlled vocabulary  to see the categories for this topic - this is where you can start narrowing your topic, and gain more keywords/synonyms.
    • Filter by document type, e.g., to see if any review papers about your topic exist.
    • Start a list of key researchers, groups, agencies and labs.
    • Start a timeline for your literature review.
    • Keep track of the different search keywords and the databases you use. 
  • Search specialized databases in depth for journal articles, technical reports, theses, etc.
  • Use a method to manage your citations and use it throughout the search process, e.g. Zotero