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.
- 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.
- 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 site:.gov will find results ending in .gov, which are government websites.
- The search agriculture site:colostate.edu 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.