Skip to Main Content

Undergraduate Research

This research guide has been created to assist undergraduate students with capstone or other research projects. This guide offers resources to help from selecting a topic through putting on the finishing touches.

Choosing Search Terms

Planning out your search strategy -- especially search terms you want to use -- can make the research process easier. When picking out search terms (alternatively can be called "key words"), look at your research topic or research question along with any smaller questions or parts, and pick out the significant nouns or ideas. These will be your search terms. You should also think of all of the various ways those nouns or ideas could be expressed - if one variation doesn't work, try another.

You can also look for the controlled vocabulary that the tool you are searching uses (i.e. the catalog and library databases). Controlled vocabulary is a set of assigned terms to describe an item that are used consistently across the tool to make searching easier. These can be described as subjects, subject terms, or thesaurus terms

Also, identify discipline terminology and jargon. How does the specific field you are researching in refer to a topic or idea? 

Keep a list of search terms that you find to be useful for your topic/question that you can use to search various tools to find information and resources.

Search Tips for Finding Articles

Boolean Search Terms

Use Boolean terms AND, OR, and NOT to connect multiple search terms (i.e. policy AND "net neutrality") to better focus your search. The way that you connect the search terms will impact the results that are returned in the search tool.

Boolean Venn Diagram

AND will return results that include both search terms you enter. OR will return results that mention either of the search terms you enter. Using NOT will exclude search results based on a specific term.

Phrase Searching

Does one of your search terms contain multiple words? Use quotation marks around the search term to ensure that those words are searched together as a phrase. For example, putting the phrase "social media" in quotes will return results that mention those two words together.

Truncation Searching

Many search tools let you utilize what is known as truncation searching, often represented in a search tool by an asterisk*. Use this option to help search for variants of a word at the same time. For example, searching for child* will search for child, children, childhood, etc. at the same time!

Keeping Track of Sources

There are various tools that you can work with to manage the citations and other information you will be collecting and you will have to figure out what works for you. 

Some people find it easier to create a document (Word Document or Google Doc) to compile citations to sources they are reviewing for consideration and start building a bibliography. You can use the citation generators that appear in many article databases (such as in EBSCO, ProQuest, etc.) to retrieve a citation to specific sources you are using to include in your bibliography. It is always important to double check any citation you get online for accuracy; capitalization errors, missing information, or other minor errors do sometimes occur. Examples of accurate citations can be found for the particular citation style you are using in the style guides or from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

Citation management tools can also be very helpful in organizing your sources.

EndNote is a citation management tool available through the Bentley Library. You can contact the Reference Desk for information on how to get and begin using EndNote.

If you need help getting started with EndNote or want more information before reaching out to the Reference Desk, we have a research guide available:

Free online citation managers, such as Mendeley or Zotero, are other options to consider. However, Bentley Library does not provide support for these citation managers.