Concept mapping is a creative and visual way to help you explore and refine your topic. It can also help you determine subtopics and to brainstorm search terms. Concept maps illustrate a central theme and related themes to help focus a topic and create search strategies.
To successfully search for information on your topic, it is best to determine the main concepts and then find keywords for those concepts. The keywords can become your search words. In general, you should search library databases with 2-3 keywords, rather than your whole topic question or a sentence.
For example, your research question is "Does fracking cause water pollution?" First underline the keywords as shown.
Then begin generating synonyms and related words to help you develop a search strategy.
|hydraulic fracturing||underground water||contamination|
|drilling for natural gas||aquifers||toxins|
|natural gas wells||wells||carcinogens|
|directional drilling||domestic water supply||flammable water|
In many databases, you could start your search by typing fracking water pollution and it would automatically turn that search into:
fracking AND water AND pollution
This is a search using Boolean logic.
A more advanced Boolean search could be done like this:
(fracking OR "hydraulic fracturing") AND (water OR aquifer* OR wells) AND (pollut* OR contaminat* OR carcinogen*)
In this example the * will also find different endings for the words, such as aquifers, pollution, pollute, contaminate, contamination, carcinogens, and carcinogenic.
You can also find additional keywords by searching your topic in a database, finding a relevant item and noting the terms used in the description of that item.
From a concept map, like the sample below, it is possible to: