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Designing A Research Strategy: Search Strategy

This search strategy is intended as a general guide for students in the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley. You can vary it depending on your specific needs, but consider all of these basic steps.


DECONSTRUCT your topic to uncover its complexities.  Another term for deconstructing a research question is 'concept mapping;' see the Rhode Island School of Design Library's excellent slide show Concept Mapping for a visual tutorial (a PowerPoint presentation).

  1. Select a style manual for bibliographic citations (see Citation Styles for more information), follow its recommendations for form, and thoroughly cite every source you use. It will save you time when you are trying to locate materials and compile your bibliography or footnotes.

  2. Select a topic. If your topic is too broad, you will find more information than you can retrieve. If it is too narrow, you will find very little information.

  3. Get an overview of your topic by consulting an encyclopedia:

  4. Note key words or subject terms which can be used in your search. Also look for bibliographies at the end of encyclopedia articles. They will lead you to additional sources of information. For unknown or obscure words and terms, and for related subject terms use dictionaries:

  5. To identify lists of books and/or articles already gathered by some previous researcher, check for the availability ofbibliographies on your subject. Search OskiCat by doing a keyword search on “bibliograph* AND (your general topic). Example: “bibliograph* architect* (Rome OR Roman)”. If there are no specialized bibliographies on your topic, check the indexes or table of contents of more general subject bibliographies, e.g.

  6. Refine your topic. Using sources gathered so far, clarify the scope and depth of the subject or problem you wish to research.

  7. Search for books and periodical articles on your topic.

  8. Footnotes and Bibliographies. For additional sources check the footnotes and bibliographies of the books and articles which you found most useful.

  9. After locating periodical articles and books, you are ready to evaluate the resources you have found so far. Use Critical Evaluation of Resources to help determine suitable material for your research.

  10. Consider additional sources to supplement your findings, such as Maps, Images, Archival sources etc.

  11. For information on citations, style manuals, and writing research papers or dissertations, additional information, we recommend the sources below, which are available in most campus libraries or in book stores. For more information consult with a librarian.

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