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UGS 303 - Language & Communication Across Species - Quinto-Pozos

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Brainstorm Search Terms (Keywords)

Why should I do this?

Library databases and Google can't be searched the same way so take a few moments to come up with a search strategy before diving into a database,


Sample concept:   What is the purpose of fireflies' light?

Step 1:  Think about the key concepts of your topic and search those instead of entire phrases or sentences.

  • Key concepts: fireflies, light
  • Wait!  Why not "purpose"?  Words like purpose, causes and effects will unnecessarily narrow your search. The scholarly articles you find will explain the causes and effects without necessarily using those words.   

Step 2:   Think of other terms you could use that are synonyms or related.  This often requires that you do a little background research to learn more, such as scientific terms and overviews of the species you chose.

  • Other terms for fieflies  -  lampyridae, photinini
  • Other terms for light (as it relates to fireflies) -  bioluminescence, luminescence

Step 3:  Think of aspects of this broader topic you'd like to explore.  If you don't know enough about it, do a search in a background source (see the next tab in this guide) to find narrower aspects.  For example, you may identify reasons for bioluminescence such as communication more broadly, or mating more specifically.  

Step 4: Create your database search strings

  • Example 1: fireflies AND bioluminescence AND communication
  • Example 2: fireflies OR lampyridae AND  bioluminescence AND communication OR mating

Remember - 

  • AND narrows your topic (use AND between terms if you want them all to appear in your results)
  • OR broadens your topic (use OR between terms if you want any, not all, to appear in your results)

Pre-Research with Background Information

If you use Wikipedia as a first step in your research, you are already using background information to get started with research.  Background information helps you:

  • pre-research your topic
  • learn more about theories and concepts
  • find narrower aspects of your topic to explore
  • define terms
  • find lists of sources you can use for your own research
  • find key terms you can use to search for additional sources

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