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Library Research: A Quick Guide for Writing Assignments

Learn to find, read, and use database articles for a writing assignment.

Understanding Your Research Assignment and Developing Search Terms

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  • Choosing good search terms will help you find the information you need

  • Search terms - nouns, keywords, subjects

  • Start with the terms you find in your assignment


Assignment Example:

Find 2-3 articles using two different library databases to find information about stress and it's physical, cognitive, social, and emotional impacts.

  • Main Topic - stress
  • Subtopics -impacts of stress on 
    • physical health
    • cognitive health
    • social health
    • emotional health

note-taking iconBase your search terms on the Main Topic and Subtopics identified in your assignment.  Because different authors use different terms think beyond the words listed in the assignment to find alternative search terms other words that mean the same thing.  

Create a list in your notebook that lists primary search terms and their alternatives:

  • Stress - physical and mental pressure, tension, hardship, strain
  • Physical - body, muscles, heart, cardiovascular, stomach, gastrointestinal
  • Cognitive (psychological) - mental, in the mind, subconscious, unconscious
  • Social - people, community, group, interactive
  • Emotion/al - feelings (anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, etc.)

NOTE: Use a thesaurus (linked below) to build your list. Add additional terms you come across in the articles you find.

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  • Use the search terms alone -- stress
  • Use the search terms in combination -- "mental stress"  "physical stress" 

Notice how stress is described in articles to learn about its impact

When you are writing you will describe the following:

icon depicts stress

  • symptoms
  • behaviors
  • treatment
  • age of onset 
  • childhood, family, school
  • people's experiences

These descriptions will help you write about the impact of stress on a person's physical, mental, cognitive, and emotional health.

Online Thesaurus

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