Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Prof. Allen - English 101 - Fall 2019: Search Plan

Thinking about Controversial Issues

Identify the aspects of the large concept (idea) that are RELEVANT to your search right now. Use these RELEVANT aspects to give you search terms (keywords) and to help you stay on track throughout your search process.

Controversial Issues: A Mental Model to guide your research

Remember that for your assignment you want to learn about this topic but you have limits.

  • There is a due date that limits the time you can spend gathering, understanding, and absorbing information about the topic.
  • There are space considerations including how many pages you have in which to express yourself, your ideas and the results of your research.
  • Other assignment requirements may include how many and what types of sources you must use.

For all these reasons, it is important to identify the relevant aspects of the larger topic that most interest you, that you will emphasize in your work.

Start a LIst of Keywords = Search Terms

Old KeyWherever you search, you enter words that you hope/expect will retrieve the just right sources and information. Building a list of words and terms that are linked to your topic is a basic step to successful research!

Step 1: Begin with your task and topic.

Read over your task as assigned.  Look for any words that express the main concepts.  

Step 2: Generate additional keywords.

Brainstorm more terms you can use in searching and writing. There are specific strategies you can use to help you with this step.

  • Think of synonyms of each of the words you already have on your list.  
    Example:  Teens has many synonyms including teen, teenager, teenagers, adolescent, youths, and so on. Criminals might also be called offenders.
  • Add plural and singular forms of the words. Search engines need to be told when you want more than one of an idea.  Example: statue is different to a search engine compared to statues.
  • Think about related terms. Use the 5 Ws to prompt your thinking. Answer the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Which? How?  Example: Is your search tied to the whole United States or just New York State? Was there an incident or case study that occurred in a specific year or place?
  • Think about broader or narrower terms that might be of use.  Example: The placement of Confederate monuments might be part of a larger discussion of hatred or racism or extremism.

Step 3: Add to your list of keywords throughout your search.

As you search and read articles, you will encounter new ways of talking about ideas related to your search. Add to your list. 

Remember: The words on this list will help you find the BEST information possible. These same words will help you write (create) your best product (essay, presentation, speech).

Build a Better Search Strategy TOOL