Nursing 282 Donna Greenberg Nursing Librarian [email protected] Choosing an Effective Research Topic It may sound strange, but the first step when doing research isn’t choosing a topic. You aren’t going to say, “Okay, my topic is … surgery. Let’s start searching!” Rather, from an initial, and perhaps very general, research topic area, you’re going to formulate a research question, or set of questions, that you can then investigate further. You’ll want to see what information is available to you, and then start honing in on a manageable topic from there. Thus, the first step is not to choose a topic, and then do research. The first step is to research, more specifically, what your topic even is. Example: Nursing Topic When you get your assignment from your professor, the first thing you’ll need to do is interpret it to figure out what you need to do. What are its requirements? How can you research an authentic interest from your paper prompt? Let’s suppose your paper prompt is as follows: The purpose of this assignment is to teach you to do research at the college level. In this paper you will research recent research findings (published within the last 5 years) relating to the elderly and health care, and write an annotated bibliography using wellresearched sources as evidence. r research to improve student services. General idea Interest Topic What about this topic interests you? What is your potential topic? Elderly and hip fractures Well … personal interest. Thinking about the paper requirements, maybe I could think about … therapies for hip replacement. How on earth can I write about this within the parameters of my assignment?! Tentative topic: Therapies for elderly hip replacement patients that are effective. There’s so many ways you could go here, depending on your interests. But you have enough to go on to search the library for research on your topic. And your initial searches may turn up something that interests you about this topic that you’d never even have initially thought of. That happens all the time FINDING INFORMATION Developing Keywords Once you’ve gone through the process of choosing an effective research topic, the next thing you’ll need to do is develop some keywords. Keyword is the term researchers use for the search terms you need to develop – based on your initial research topic choice – in order to search the library catalog and databases well. If you develop good keywords, you’ll be able to strategically search library resources for materials on your topic. This will make doing research much easier. Example 1: Nursing Topic Tentative topic: What are the effective therapies for elderly patients who have had hip replacement surgery? OR write it as a title Effective therapies for elderly hip replacement patients Developing Keywords: Step 1 How would you get started searching for information? This will help you develop effective keywords you can use to search the library for information. Summarize the topic you would like to write about in 1-2 sentences: I would like to see what effective therapies there are for elderly patients who have had hip replacement surgery? Developing Keywords: Step 2 The next step is to identify the key concepts from your initial research interest. IDENTIFY THE KEY CONCEPTS IN THE SENTENCE YOU WROTE ABOVE (YOU MAY HAVE 1, 2, OR EVEN 3 KEY CONCEPTS DEPENDING ON YOUR TOPIC). TIP : THE SHORTER THE BETTER-ONE WORD WILL OFTEN DO THE TRICK. Therapy -- Elderly -- Hip Replacement Surgery Plus a date limit Developing Keywords: Step 3 This will allow you to separate out the main concepts you are working with. You can then figure out synonyms you might use for those topics. They will be useful if for some reason your initial terms don’t work out. Also, once you start searching, you can write in the scientific terms scholars use for your keywords. Therapy Elderly Hip Replacement Surgery Exercise Aged Hip Replacement Physical Therapy Old Broken Hip Total Hip Replacement Now you’re well prepared to begin to search our databases. Even just a simple search of Discovery – our main library search box or CINAHL our main nursing database – with “therapy elderly hip replacement surgery” as our keyword: turns up some pretty useful results. Search Results These relevant results will help you get started with your research. If you click on an article title, you can browse the abstract – or basic summary of the article – to see if it’s relevant to you. There’s no need to read an entire article just to see if it might work for your purposes. Another good trick is to click on the article title and see what other keywords and subject headings are given. This can help you conduct further, and even more effective, searches. Searching is a Process One of the most important things to remember about searching for information is that it is a multi-step process. Even if you find a lot of great articles with your first search – which may be rare – the more searches you conduct, the better your information, and the more informed you’ll tend to be. Play with different searches based on your keywords and synonyms. This will produce even more relevant results.