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University of Southern Maine
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SWO 505: Social Work Research I: Research Tips



1. State your question with all parts (Ex. What is the effect of Ageism to the labor force in Maine?)

2. Note important Keywords in the Question (Ex. Ageism, Labor force, Maine)

3. Create a List of synonyms for each Keyword

Boolean Operators AND and OR

These operators will allow you to mix and match.

For example:

Ageism AND Labor AND Portland Maine

("Elder Workers" OR "Senior Workers") AND  ("Labor Force" OR "Work Force") AND (Maine OR "New England")


Using Controlled Vocabulary (Subjects and Descriptors)

Refining Your Search

  • What is the Date Range?
    • Maybe you want only last few years. Remember this could narrow your search considerably
  • Do you want Academic Articles?
    • Graduate students usually want Academic articles instead of books
  • Do you want Peer-reviewed Articles?
    • Graduate students often want peer-reviewed articles because of their rigorous standards
  • Do you need to get even more specific?
    • Do you have so many articles that adding another keyword will help focus your search even more?
  • Are you looking for Primary Studies?
    • Are you looking for original studies with methodologies such as quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods?
    • Are there limits such as Statistical Report, Qualitative or Quantitative
    • Can you add the search Method* or Study to the results?