Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Choosing a Topic

Choosing a topic can be one of the most difficult parts of the research process. Remember that research is fluid; your topic will adapt, and even completely change, as you do your research!

This short video [3:11] from North Carolina State University gives some great advice on choosing a research topic.

Search Techniques

  • Topic
    • Think about how to broaden or narrow your topic. 
    • Consider subject areas that your topic falls under.
  • Choose resources to search within
    • Books and reference materials are great for background and historical information. Get to know your topic before digging deeper.
    • Consider a variety of library databases to search, based on your topic.
  • Keywords
    • While thinking about your topic and doing background research think of key words that relate to your topic. Use a variety of keywords and mix and match them to find a greater variety of results (avoid using STOP words like a, the, an, of, in, etc.)
    • Use AND, OR, and NOT to combine your keywords and refine your search
  • Evaluating what you find
    • What did you find? A lot? A little? Is there a way to improve your search? Try refining your search using keywords to focus your research.
    • If some keywords are not working, try combining them with other words, or replace them altogether in your search.
  • Keep track of your sources and keep citation information
    • It is easy to forget where you have found something. Write down a resource's bibliographic information such as author name(s), volume, issue, date, page numbers, journal title, article title, url, etc. Keep a list for all potential resources - you never know which sources of information you will use! If you are unsure of what bibliographic info you need for a particular type of resource, check the APA Manual for specifics.

Research is a Cycle

Research is a cyclical process. This image attempts to lay that cycle out for you. Notice how thinking/analyzing and writing down your thoughts and findings are at the center of the cycle.

Google Search Tips

Limit your results to a specific site, or type of site by using site:

  • The search agriculture will find results ending in .gov, which are government websites.    
  • The search agriculture will find results that are within the CSU websites.

Use quotation marks " " around phrases or titles.

  • "soil conservation" will find results talking about soil conservation, not about conservation that just mentions soil.

Mark important words with a +

  • If you want to make sure a word or phrase shows up in your results, but a + in front: +"soil conservation"

Eliminate resutls with a -

  • A minus sign (-) works the same as NOT: soil -conservation (Be careful when using!)

Limit your results by file type by using filetype:

  • filetype:pdf finds PDFs, while filetype:.ppt will find PowerPoints.

Broaden your search

  • Use OR the same way you would in a library database to get more results (soil OR dirt).
  • Using a tilde (~) before a word will find synonyms.

See the GoogleGuide for more tips.

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