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Research Guides

ISEM101: Facing Race: Getting Started

This guide provides tips and links to sources helpful for research about issues of race.

Turning Your Research Question into a Search Strategy

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 racial profiling undermine the U.S. legal system?" First underline the keywords as shown.

Then begin brainstorming terms to help you develop a search strategy.

racial profiling U.S. legal system
law enforcement discrimination united states courts
police brutality federal justice
civil rights    fair trial
"driving while black"   lawsuit
airline profiling court cases
stop and frisk

 

In many databases, you could start your search by typing racial profiling united states justice and it would automatically turn that search into: 

racial profiling AND  united states AND justice 

This is a search using Boolean logic

 

A more advanced Boolean search could be done like this:

("racial profiling" OR "law enforcement discriminat*") AND ("united states" OR federal) AND ("legal system" OR court* OR justice)

In this example the * will also find different endings for the words, such as discrimination or discriminate and court or courts.

Here are some more tips for choosing keywords.

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. 

Electronic Library Reference Sources