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UGS 302: Fan Mail, Haters, and the Literary / Clement

Preparing to Search

Preparing to Search

Sometimes, you find exactly what you need with your first search. But it often doesn't work out that way! Try this step-by-step brainstorm before you search the library catalog or databases. 

1. Save time, prepare to research!

  • Break your research question into key concepts (you'll connect these in your paper to make an original argument)
  • For each of these concepts, brainstorm multiple keywords

Sample Topic:

 Musician Lizzo, known for her body positivity, goes on a juice cleanse, and receives a wide range of criticism and responses from fans

Key Concepts


Juice cleanse

Body positivity

Related Keywords

musician OR singer
famous OR "pop star"
(Black OR African American) wom*n

weight loss
eating disorder

fat (shame OR stigma)
body dysmorphia
fat acceptance movement

  • Try this keyword tool to brainstorm online and send the results to yourself.

2. Combine keywords using AND and OR:

  • Too many results? Try using quotation marks around an exact phrase. Ex: "body positivity"
  • Still too many results? Narrow using AND. Ex: Black women AND "body positivity"
  • Too few results? Broaden using OR. Ex: "body positivity" OR "fat acceptance"
  • Put parentheses around synonyms. 
  • The asterisk finds multiple endings from a root word. Ex: wom* will bring back women, woman's, wombat, etc.

3. Brush up on the search tools available:

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