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SOCY 122: Introduction to Academic Library Research

Course guide library research tutorial

As noted previously, specialized encyclopedias and other reference materials are useful for obtaining background information, in addition to helping you focus your topic and identify the main concepts, terms and keywords that describe your topic. These terms will become the keywords used when searching various resources (such as the Library catalogue, article indexes and databases) for books and articles.

Reducing Your Research Question to Relevant Keywords

With your topic in mind and having done some preliminary background reading you will have some topic keywords to begin your search with. As you proceed with your searching you will come across additional keywords (particularly in the subject terms assigned to books in QCAT and scholarly journal articles within the article indexes and databases you will be searching). 

For example, for a research paper examining the role that social media played in facilitating a social movement such as the Occupy Movement, the important concepts from this topic, reduced to keywords, would be:

social media AND social movements AND occupy

Now, think about whether there are other terms that could also be used to describe the topic, including synonyms, related terms, or words and phrases that have similar meaning:

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
social media social movements occupy
new media social mobilization  
Twitter social activism  
Facebook uprisings  

Note: Most databases use American spelling, so, when applicable, you should search for both versions of a word (e.g. labour, labor).