Skip to Main Content

Research Strategies: Refining Topics

This LibGuide is designed to provide you with several ideas and starting points for beginning your research.

Refining Tips

When conducting academic research, you need to conduct multiple searches to find a comprehensive amount of literature on your topic.  This is because different index terms are used to describe resources such as books and articles. 

Also, not all resources exist in one database or Web site.  So you often have to search different ones to get enough quality information to use in your assignment.

Good research is time consuming and challenging, but here are a few tips to refine your search as you go along.

Refine with synonyms or different keywords.

If you get no results, you may need to broaden your search.

If you get hundreds or thousands of results you may need to narrow your focus.

Research Book

Everything you wanted to know and more about research.

Combining Search Terms

Combining Search Terms - Boolean Operators

Find the Subject

When you find a result/resource that matches your topic well, look for the Subject terms used to characterize the source.  The subject terms may be hyperlinked to additional materials, or give you new words to try.  Subject terms tell you how a resource is indexed. 

Also look for a thesaurus or headings link in the database to find subject terms that match your topic.


If you have a phrase you are searching, try putting it in quotes (i.e. "horseshoe curve").  This searches your terms together.

How Can We Help?

What type of research instruction would be most beneficial to you as a student?

How Can We Help?
Finding Articles: 8 votes (50%)
Finding Books: 0 votes (0%)
Evaluating Resources: 3 votes (18.75%)
Navigating the Library Web site: 0 votes (0%)
Refining Searches: 3 votes (18.75%)
Citation Methods: 1 votes (6.25%)
Avoiding Plagiarism: 1 votes (6.25%)
Total Votes: 16

Visit the Library for One-on-One Research Assistance