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The Research Process


After you have developed your research question and thesis statement, you need to think about how you will search for resources about your topic. 

Usually, whether you are searching for library resources or online resources, you will want to break your topic down into keywords, or main concepts. When you enter these terms into the search box, the database (or search engine) will match them against words that appear in the articles, books, web pages, or other resources, and will return results which include your keywords. We will talk more about how to combine keywords into an effective search strategy in the Find section of this guide.

For example:

If your thesis statement is "The use of social media is negatively affecting teenagers' sleep patterns", you might choose the following keywords / terms:


social media    



The fact that you have decided on a specific set of keywords to describe your topic, doesn't mean that the authors of articles, books, and websites have used the same words when writing about the same topic. Understanding that there may be different ways to say the same thing, it is important to brainstorm synonyms (words with the same meaning) and related words / terms to your keywords. A thesaurus can help you with this.
It can be helpful to organize your synonyms / related terms in a table. You can then turn these words into a search string which will retrieve the most relevant results.
teenagers social media sleep
teens social networking rest
youth social networks  
young adults    


The best way to find synonyms or related words is to use a thesaurus. Here are some good examples: