Exploring Your Research Question
Start your research by brainstorming terms to describe what you're looking for. Try to come up with an assortment of words or phrases that you can combine to get the best results. For instance, if you're looking for articles about the news media's influence on voting (in any country), what words might work for each of the major concepts in your research question?
Keep draft notes of the terms you come up with so you can try them out in different combinations in several library newspaper or journal databases.
|Main Research Concepts||Additional Associated or Alternative Terms|
|News media||journalism, reporter, journalist, type of media: TV, radio, newspaper, internet…|
|Voting||politics, race, election, nomination, vote, ballot, turnout…|
|Influence||change, power, effect, shape, fix, determine, decide, shift…|
|Place of interest||country or location name|
Using LexisNexis Academic
You can use LexisNexis Academic to find international newspaper articles on your topic.
Look at your brainstormed terms and decide how you want to begin your search.
For instance, I'm interested in finding out about US foreign policy in relation to Ukraine so I might focus on the terms "US policy" and Ukraine
This pulls up recent articles about US policy toward Ukraine published in newspapers around the workd (including the US). Out of the many articles in my results set, I can start to judge which ones might best answer my research question. First I look at the headline (is it on topic?), then at the publication (is it non-US?), then at the date (is it recent?), and then the word count (is it long enough to have real content -- 500+ words?). Each headline links me to the full text of the article.
Using Academic Search Complete
Using the "Journals by Title" list
You can also use the Library's journal list -- the list of all the magazines, journals, and newspapers that we subscribe to -- to find articles on a subject as well.
First go to the FIND catetory on the Library's home page. Then choose the "Journals by Title" category (formerly the JournaList)
If I'm looking for an academic journal article in a certain subject area, I can browse the titles in that subject category in the JournaList.
Using the Theses & Dissertations List
- You never know what you'll find, so be open to the possibilities.
- Research is like cooking - you often have a make a huge mess to get something good at the end.
- Don't be afraid to find all the "wrong" ways first.
- Databases are like cars: if you can drive one car, you can pretty much drive any car. Most all databases share the same basic functions.
- Think about other words to describe what you're looking for - if something is "red," try "magenta" or "brick."
- You're trying to find a way in to the conversation, so if you can find one place to start from, you can go from there.
- Keep a research log so you don't redo things you've already tried.
Get Help at the Writing Center!
The MSU Writing Center has a satellite office in the Library. Call (406) 994-5315 to make an appointment. For more information, see their Web site linked here: