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BIS 390: The Research Process

Research guide for students in BIS 390

Tips for Searching

  • Think broadly about your topic at first but then narrow and refine the focus. Consider combining only two terms; remember the more terms you add the fewer results you will get, so remove terms if you are not getting enough results.
  • You may want to limit by geography, adding terms like "United States" or "American."
  • Searching the book catalog and article databases is like a treasure hunt. One thing leads to another.
  • Try different search terms using synonyms (examples: working class or blue collar: news media or press).
  • Approach from different angles (consider subject databases from different fields like sociology, gender studies, economics, communication, and more). Think cross disciplinary.
  • One you find a good book or article, look at the author, the subject links (in the database record), and the bibliography. Mine the citations in the bibliography.
  • Keep a record of everything you find and where and how you find it.
  • Research is always a multi step process.

Keyword Exercise

Finding the right keywords can make all the difference when researching a topic. The following brainstorming process will help you focus your searches to find relevant sources.

1. Write a sentence about your research problem.

  • How does a working class identity influence someone's understanding and interpretation of mass media?

2. Pull out the keywords and phrases in the sentence above and list them separately.

  • working class
  • identity
  • understanding
  • interpretation
  • mass media

3. Start expanding the list with related terms and synonyms.

  • working class - blue collar - laborers - manual workers - factory workers - industrial workers
  • understanding - knowledge - capability - experience - observation - ontology
  • interpretation - content analysis - discourse analysis
  • mass media - press - news media - television - internet

4. Are there any larger/related categories that might lead you to information?

  • social class - social status - class identity - class consciousness - classism - social stratification - group identity
  • experience - reality - consciousness
  • understanding - world view - ideology - values - attitudes
  • media - text - literature - music - new media - arts - censorship

5. Now you have a beginning list of keywords and phrases to begin searching for information. Add more keywords and phrases as you discover them in your searching.