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SCWK 650 (All Classes)

This is a guide to help students in SCWK 650 work on their research projects.


Why Develop a Search Strategy?

Before starting a search, it is helpful to clarify what you are looking for by developing a search strategy. Developing a search strategy is a useful practice for several important reasons.

  • Helps focus your search
  • Gives you something to work with
  • Saves you time in the long run
  • Helps you find larger amount of relevant information

Building a Search Strategy

Think about the focus of your question. Summarize your topic in one or two sentences or questions; try to be as specific as possible.

Identify key concepts. Using your summarization, identify the two or three main concepts.

Use advanced searching options or limiters to narrow your results. If your results list is large, narrow down the results by date, material type, etc.

Build on what you've found. The research process is not linear but cyclical. When you find articles that seem relevant, use the subject headings, or descriptors, and citations from those articles to expand your search. This process will help you re-evaluate your ideas and refocus your search if necessary.

What if you absolutely cannot think of other search terms to describe your topic? Remember you can always email or call me!

Suggested search terms

Search for a certain methodology by adding it to your search; examples: quantitative, qualitative, longitudinal

Search for certain models or theories by putting the theory in quotes; examples: "systems theory"

Search for a specific author; examples: theorists, well-known experts, authors of other articles that you found useful

Tips & Tricks

  • Ask for help! You may need to break your one research question up into multiple searches.
  • Keep track of searches you've done and note new keywords you learn so you can search for them too.
  • Don't search in just one database for articles.
  • SmartSearch does not search all the other databases.
  • Don't limit yourself to just full-text.
  • Interlibrary loan(ILL) is free& quick!  
  • Use quotation marks around search terms to search for phrases.
  • Use  parentheses and OR to create more complex searches.
  • Save articles when you find them. 

Refresh your memory

Refresh your memory of or develop an understanding of basic concepts with these reference resources:

Mapping Your Research Ideas (video ~3 min)

This short video from UCLA Libraries is very useful!