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The Research Process a step by step guide
Module 2: Investigating and Refining a Topic

Ocean County College Library Toms River, NJ Spring 2010

This Module is the continuation of the Research Process Guide and will cover:
– Step 4: Investigating a topic – Step 5: Refining a topic

Feel free to go through the modules at your own pace

Feel free to go through the modules at your own pace
And remember you can stop by the library for further assistance on any of the topics covered.

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
Start by conducting preliminary research to see what information is available. This may help you develop a research plan.

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
Try to find out:
• What books are available in your library? • What books are available in other libraries? • Which subscription databases seem to have relevant and appropriate articles?

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
Locating Books in the OCC Catalog
• Start by accessing the OCC Library homepage: http://www.ocean.edu/library/welcome.html •

Click the “Find Books and Movies” link

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
Locating Books in the OCC Catalog
This will take you to the OCC Catalog. You can search here for books, Ebooks, media items (like videos and CDs), as well as print periodicals

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
Locating Articles in the OCC Databases
If you are ON campus:
• Access the OCC Library homepage • Click the “Find Articles” link

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
Locating Articles in the OCC Databases
If you are OFF campus:
• Log in to Ocean Cruiser

• Click the “Announcements” icon
• Then select “Access Library Databases From Off-Campus”

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
How Do I Choose a Database?

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
How Do I Choose a Database? No two databases are the same. They vary by: • Subject matter • Resource type • Access options

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
How Do I Choose a Database? No two databases are the same. They vary by: • Subject matter For example, a general database, like Academic Search Premier, is multi• Resource type disciplinary and covers many subjects. • Access options
But a specific database, like PsychARTICLES, is focused on psychology resources.

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
How Do I Choose a Database? No two databases are the same. They vary by: • Subject matter For example, a reference database, like Facts on File, provides access to many • Resource type encyclopedic entries. • Access options
But a research database, like JSTOR, provides access to academic articles.

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
How Do I Choose a Database? No two databases are the same. They vary by: • Subject matter Some databases provide access to articles in HTML or PDF format. • Resource type • Access options Others provide access to images or multimedia. Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
How Do I Choose a Database? So… when choosing a database, consider: • Your subject matter
(is there a specific database geared to that subject?)

• What type of information you need
(general information? Academic articles? multimedia resources?)

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
How Do I Choose a Database? And remember…
You can always ask a librarian to help you choose a database.

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
After your preliminary research, you may realize you topic is either:

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
After your preliminary research, you may realize you topic is either:
• Too broad (there is a lot of research and on multiple topic aspects),

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
After your preliminary research, you may realize you topic is either • Too broad (there is a lot of research and on multiple topic aspects), or • Too narrow (there is little research, or research is on more general topic aspects)

Fourth Step: Investigating a topic
In that case, you may need to refine your topic

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
To refine a topic, start by asking: “What is my research purpose?” “What do I really need to find out?”

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
Let’s refer back to our example assignment:
In this assignment, you will research Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among veterans. Research the history of the disorder, as well as its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
Let’s refer back to our example assignment:
In this assignment, you will research Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among veterans. Research the history of the disorder, as well as its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be a broad topic. There is a lot of research focusing on different aspects of the disorder.

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
Let’s refer back to our example assignment:
In this assignment, you will research Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among veterans. Research the history of the disorder, as well as its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Sometimes, you’ll need to refine the topic yourself by determining what specifically you want to research about a broad topic .

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
Let’s refer back to our example assignment:
Luckily, this professor has refined the topic for you: • To a specific population (veterans) • To specific aspects (history, causes, symptoms, treatments) (Note: you may still have to refine the topic further, depending on your thesis and purpose…)

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
A simple keyword search in the PsychARTICLES database produces hundreds of results on a wide range of topic aspects:
• PTSD in children • PTSD in lab rats • PTSD in different cultures…

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
One way to refine this search is to focus on a specific group of patients. In our case, veterans.
This database lets you choose that option from the list, but you can also narrow by adding the term “veterans” to your search: “posttraumatic stress disorder AND veterans”

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
This refined search produces fewer results that are more focused to the research need.
You can continue to refine your search by “and-ing” terms like “symptoms” or “treatment” to your search.

“posttraumatic stress disorder AND veterans AND symptoms”

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
Tips for developing and refining a topic:

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
Tips for developing and refining a topic:
1. Consider the main concepts of your topic
Research topics are often complex. are usually more than one concept or topic aspect to consider

There

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
Tips for developing and refining a topic:
2. Identify important issues related to your topic:
– Important events – Key researchers and questions – Controversies

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
Tips for developing and refining a topic:
2. Develop a list of related concepts and terms
Terms Related terms/ concepts Posttraumatic Stress Disorder PTSD Anxiety disorder Emotional trauma Combat experience Veterans Military veterans Combat veterans Soldiers Service personnel Symptoms Behavior Psychiatric symptoms

Tip! Many databases provide a thesaurus to help you identify related concepts and terms.

Fifth Step: Refining a topic
Tips for developing and refining a topic:
Your list of related concepts and terms will help you during your search by giving your other useful keywords and related subject matter.

You can explore this further in the OCC Search Strategies Guide!

Congratulations! You’ve completed Module 2! Next, explore the Search Strategies Guide to become a more powerful searcher…

Designed by Caitlyn Cook Ocean County College Spring 2010

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