I think that the most difficult part of writing an academic paper is the research task. My first information search on a topic will often result in thousands of articles. While these articles are usually fascinating to read, most of them are not specific enough for the topic of my paper. In order to access articles that will be useful to me in writing my paper, I try to be intentional about how I search for articles.
Lately, I have been using advanced search filters to parse down the number of articles I access from databases. Advanced search filters are options that limit the type of articles identified by the search engine. They are powerful tools that allow me to find articles that specifically address the topic of my paper.
For example, I once wrote a paper about the treatment of depression in adolescents. A general search using the keyword, “depression” resulted in the identification of an overwhelming 190,725 articles in the PsychINFO 1967 database, accessible to all students from Antioch University. However, many articles in this search were only incidentally related to depression, and it was more likely that an article with the word depression in its title would be what I was looking for. This search resulted in 55,936 articles. Further refinement of this search by only including articles published within the last 5 years and with the keyword treatment resulted in a much more manageable 113 and 38 articles, respectively, that I used to write my paper.
The power of an advanced search is one that should be harnessed by all students regardless of their topic and area of study. Google in particular has powerful advanced search engine and information on how to use it may be found here. Hopefully, this helps to make your searches more meaningful and specific to the topic at hand.
Graduate Assistant – Virtual Writing Center