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How to do Research in College

Tips and tutorials for searching Library databases and conducting research.

FCC Library Databases

Virtual Library Oreintation (VLO)

What Makes a Good Research Question?

What makes a good research question?

  • Narrow Focus
  • Answer is not obvious
  • You can actually research it (there is evidence out there for you to find)
  • Question is clear and has a single focus

Focusing Your Topic

The best way to Focus Your Topic is to ask questions about it. Consider the five W's when trying to figure out what you want to research:

Who? Limit your topic to a specific person or group.

What? Limit your topic to a particular aspect of the topic or discipline.

Where? Limit your topic to a particular place or region.

When? Limit your topic to a particular period of time.

Why? Ask why the topic is important.

Remember you can limit your topic in more than one way. For example limit it to a "who" and a "what" or a "when" and a "where".

Mix and match the five Ws until you've created a Good Research Question.

Craft Keywords from a Research Question

Create Keywords from your research question


  • Place the main concepts of your research question horizontally in the first row.
  • Add synonyms and like ideas vertically under each original concept.
  • Try to come up with at least two or three synonyms for each concept.
  • Try different combinations of keywords when searching the databases.
  • Draw a chart like the one below or use the handout below to create your search terms.

 Research Question: How do violent video games affect children? 

Main Concepts  ----------------------------------->

Synonyms and Like Ideas

 Video Games













 Need help coming up with synonyms? Try using or looking at “related searches” in Google.

Databases can also give you ideas for other words. Do a search with your original concepts and see what you get!



Research Skills Worksheet

Download these worksheet to practice searching library databases, creating keywords, and evaulating sources.

Boolean Searching

Databases automatically place:


Between each of the keywords you type into the search box.

This will only find articles that include ALL your keywords.

A venn diagram that shows the word Cat in one circle and the word Dog in another circle. A small section of both circles overlap and is colored in blue. Under the image is a title that says Cat AND Dog. The And is the same blue as the area where the two circles overlap.

The MORE keywords you use the FEWER articles you will receive.

Choose your keywords carefully and don't add too many to a search.

Library Database Tutorials

Need more help?
These step-by-step database tutorials will show you how to use specific library databases

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