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Beginning Your Research

Find sources

In this digital age you may easily find yourself overwhelmed by information. Here are some great tips to help you find useful and relevant resources efficiently to support your research:

Develop your search strategy

A search strategy is a plan on how you will look for information to suit your research needs.

Why a search strategy? It helps you to

  • Articulate your research topic & research question
  • Remain consistent in your search from one search tool to the next
  • Find a large amount of relevant information
  • Save time and energy in the long run

A search strategy will evolve along the way as your research evolves.

Below are the basic steps to develop a search statement. After going through these steps, try to build up your own search statement using this worksheet [pdf] 


1. Identify the keywords or the main concepts of your research topic.

  • For example, for the topic Globalization of Chinese companies, the keywords are Globalization, Chinese and Companies.


2. Think of similar terms (synonyms) or phrases that might also be used to describe these concepts.

This is to ensure that you do not miss out any relevant information. For example, you can first arrange the main concepts in columns. Then under each column write down similar terms or phrases that may also be used to represent that concept: 


3. Combine your search terms in a way that a database can understand.

To do this, you need to use the words AND, OR, NOT (Boolean operators).

AND combines different concepts (e.g. Globalization and Chinese listed in different columns of the table above are different concepts).
OR combines similar concepts (e.g. Chinese and China listed in the same column above are similar concepts).
NOT excludes the undesirable concepts


Here is a diagram to help you understand:



4. Make use of truncation, wildcards, parentheses and phrase searching for more productive searching.

Symbols commonly used in many search tools including catalogues and databases are:


5. A search statement can then be developed.

For example:



Chinese OR China


Compan* OR Corporat* OR Firm*

Below are some common types of resources that you may use to locate information for your research:

dd Books generally provide an overview of specific topics, and with many references to other relevant sources. They provide a good starting point for in-depth research.
  Reference books, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, provide quick facts and background information on a word or a subject.

Periodicals are materials published regularly (daily, monthly, etc.), usually focusing on a subject area.

Major types of periodicals include:

  • Scholarly journals, containing articles written by scholars or experts in the academic or professional field
  • Magazines, covering topics of popular interest
  • Newspapers, containing news, current events, advertisements, and other articles of current interest

Magazines and newspapers are usually not appropriate in a research paper. Click here for a comparison of different types of periodicals.


Theses and dissertations are extended, often book-length research papers that students write and submit to complete the requirements for a master's or doctoral degree.


Audio-visual resources provide information in video, audio, and image formats.

  The Web is a vast network of unfiltered information sources. It is of utmost importance that we evaluate information on the Web before it is used and cited.

The research process is a continuous cycle. 

  • When you find articles/books that seem relevant, use the subject headings and descriptors to expand your search. 
  • You may also refer to bibliographies and references in books or articles for other sources.
  • You may also find books on the same topic under similar call numbers.