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News Reporting & Writing Research Resources: Search Strategy

No matter where you look for information--Internet, library databases, public records, or interviews--you will need to do the following:

  • develop your topic into a statement or questions on what you want to find out
  • identify the keywords in your topic statement/questions
  • brainstorm synonyms for your keywords or other ways of describing what you need
  • strategize how to enter that information in a search box or formulate an effective¬†question
  • consider the source: who or what entitity would most likely produce information on your topic (government, nonprofit, research, commercial)

Developing a Search Strategy

  1. Once you have chosen a topic, write it down in the form of a question or brief statement:
    What is the relationship between SAT scores and college success?
  2. Underline the key words and phrases that are most specific to your topic.
    What is the relationship between SAT scores and college success?
  3. Write down each key word or phrase, and underneath it, list synonyms or related terms.
    Use a dictionary or thesaurus to find additional keywords. For example:


    • scholastic aptitude test


    • university


    • achievement
  4. Think about the singular, plural, and other endings of words and write down the root of the word.
    • SAT
    • scholastic aptitude test
    • college, colleges -- college
    • university, universities -- universit
    • success, successful, succeed -- succe
    • achievement, achieve, achiever -- achieve
  5. Write down your key words and phrases along with their synonyms in the form of a Boolean search statement. Use the root word, and truncate it with an asterisk (*). Note: Different databases use different truncation or wildcard symbols. Check the database's help page. For example:

    (SAT or scholastic aptitude test) and (college* or universit*) and (sucee* or achieve*)