Developing a Search Strategy

1.  Define your topic
A.  Begin with a general idea of a topic.
Standardized testing in the schools
B.  State your topic as a question.
Does standardized testing increase student achievement?
C.  Identify the main concepts in your topic.
Standardized tests, student, achievement
D.  Identify additional search terms for each concept (synonyms and related terms).
Concepts: Standardized tests Student Achievement
Additional terms: Assessment K-12 Learning
  SAT 9 Children Skills
  Achievement tests Youth Academic performance
E.  Do a preliminary search to determine if your topic is too broad or too narrow.  Search using the concept terms first; use the additional search terms if necessary.  Use:
1.  Reference books
2.  Library books
3.  Articles in a general database like Academic Search Elite
F.  Refine your topic if necessary.
1.  If you find too much information, narrow your topic by adding more specific terms.
Does the California SAT 9 increase student achievement at the high school level?
2.  If you find too little information, broaden your topic by using more general terms, using fewer search terms, doing a Boolean OR search, or truncating search terms.
What are the advantages or disadvantages of achievement or standardized tests?
2.  Determine what kind of information you need
A.  Ask a librarian to recommend the best sources.
B.  Background information (from encyclopedias, dictionaries)
C.  Current information (from recently published articles in magazines and newspapers and sources on the web)
D.  Primary or secondary sources (See "Primary vs. Secondary Sources")
E.  Types of sources:  popular or scholarly (See "Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals:  How to Tell the Difference")
3.  Find the information
A.  Browse reference books for background information
B.  Find library books through the online catalog (Library Catalog)
C.  Search for focused articles through the library's databases (See "Databases by Subject" to identify appropriate databases for your topic)
D.  Determine the best search engines to locate web sites (See "Major Search Engines" on the CSUS Library web site for categories of search engines)
E.  Look for bibliographies in all the sources you use.  These list books and articles that are good starting points for your research.
4.  Evaluate what you have found
A.  Have you answered the question you asked?
B.  Consider the quality of the information.  Is it accurate, reliable complete, current?
5.  Repeat this process if necessary
A.  Revise your topic if you have not been able to find enough information to answer your original question.
B.  Search for more information as needed.