Helpful Research Hints

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Helpful Research Advice: Frustrated with trying to find material, here are some tricks that I use in my own searches.
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Helpful Research Advice

Sometimes it can be quite overwhelming to be handed a term paper assignment by an instructor, especially when there appears not to be much on a given topic. You type your subject into any number of databases, and can turn up very little to nothing. Or you could be so overwhelmed with the number of hits you do not know where to start. So I have developed this list of hints to assist you with the process of researching.

What I do. . .

1. First, if the topic is something I know very little about, I do a basic web search. I go to any number of online search engines, and type in the key words involved in the subject. While this may seem like extra work, having some basic knowledge of your topic can be invaluable later on when doing other sorts of searches. Sometimes the way we think of topics may be completely different than the ways they are commonly referred to.

Basic Search Engines include. . .

Yahoo (

Alta Vista ( This is a very under-used search engine, but seems to have a more complete database. Use the advanced search features to eliminate inapplicable web pages.

Hotbot ( also includes Google now): This search engine is specifically good at finding documents if you have 1 or more lines of text. Simply put the line of text in quotes.

Lycos (

Believe it or not, different search engines often turn up different documents (as they catalogue web pages differently). So visit a variety of them.

2. Create a list of words that seem to be related to your subject. These words should range from very broad to very specific. For example, if you are looking at elderly women, their relationships and Asia, your list could include the following subject words: Geriatric, Elderly, Women, Female, Relationship, Family, Asia, Japan, Thailand, Singapore etc. Use these words in whatever search engine/database that you choose to use.

3. What do I do if I get so many hits that I can't wade through them (example, porn sites or too many applicable articles)? First, determine whether or not all the sites are applicable. If they are applicable, then try to make your search more specific by adding another appropriate word to your search. If some sites or articles are not applicable, then usually there is a more advanced way to search. Look for advanced search either as a link or as a button on your screen. One option you will see in this search screen is the option to eliminate sites/articles based upon key words. Simply reproduce your search, but place the key subject words (Like Pornography) into the box of subjects you want eliminated from your search. This is specifically great for the group of Asia (not China).

What do I do if a search returns very little information? Turn to your list words generated from that early reading. Try to expand your topic. For example, if you are looking at Japanese women, expand to Asian women.