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Norwich University Kreitzberg Library

Develop a Research Strategy

There are many benefits to having a research strategy before you delve into searching for resources. What's the biggest reason to develop a research strategy? It saves you time in the long run and helps you find better resources, faster!

What You Will Learn

This guide teaches strategies for changing up your thought process and  search strategy to refine or broaden your search as necessary.

Watch the Video

Too Many Results?

Perhaps you found there are far too many articles on your subject for the sort of paper you need to write. It may be a good idea to make your topic more refined. There are many things you can try to narrow your focus.

Focus on an aspect of the larger topic. Instead of looking at human resource practices in all businesses, look at them in a particular business sector.
Focus on a shorter time period. Instead of looking at crime in Detroit, look at crime in Detroit in the 1980s.
Focus on a specific geographic area. Instead of researching international terrorism, look at terrorism in Spain.

Change up your search strategy:

  • add an additional keyword to your search using AND.
  • add a subject heading to further focus your search if available in the database you're using.
  • change where you are searching--try searching for the most important element of your topic in the Title instead of the Key Fields or Full-Text.

Not Enough Results?

Sometimes, you may find there are very few articles relevant to your research. This is an occasion to broaden your topic and there are plenty of ways to expand your focus.

Think about what the broader theme of your topic is and focus your research on that. Instead of writing about cybercrime against the Department of Defense, write about cybercrime against the government.
If you focused on a specific geographic area or time period, consider expanding your search to other time periods and geographic areas.  Instead of examining the roots of terrorism in the Basque country, examine the roots of terrorism in Spain, Ireland, and Israel.
Think about topics related to your original topic and see if you can find more articles on them  Instead of just researching Frederick the Great of Prussia, research the social history of the time and the state of the Prussian military.

Change up your search strategy:

  • add additional synonyms to your search and link them together using OR.
  • if you had a lot of keywords linked together using AND, try using fewer or make them more general.
  • consider whether or not the information could be better found elsewhere--would a different database be more appropiate or maybe a government website, etc.?

Still No Luck?

If you can't find sufficient resources on your topic and you can't think of a broader topic to explore, you may want to consider finding a completely new topic. Start fresh. Realizing your topic is not working early on is much better than figuring out while you are scrounging to finish a final draft! Consult your instructor or a reference librarian if you need help with topic development.

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