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LDR 2001- Foundations of Leadership

Research Topics and Questions

Whether you are assigned a research topic or you are given the choice to select your own, try to select a topic that interests you or an approach that interests you. Always consider your assignment requirements: how long does your paper need to be, what types of sources are you required to use, how many sources do you need, etc. You can always do some preliminary research on a general topic to see what's been written about it and what aspect you'd like to focus on.

Turning your research topic into a series of research questions will help guide your search and ultimately help you use that research to complete your project. Good research questions should be

  • clearly written
  • focused
  • complex (avoid simple yes/no questions)
  • arguable.

Keywords and Search Terms

After deciding on a topic and having a list of research questions, you will need to breakdown your topic into keywords that you can use as search terms. While you can type whole sentences or questions into Google and still retrieve search results, this approach will not work when searching the library databases. Instead, you will need to identify the main concepts in your topic. This video and accompanying worksheet provide one strategy for identifying effective keywords.

Search Phrases and Search Limiters

Once you have your list of keywords, you can combine them into search phrases using Boolean operators to narrow or broaden the scope of your search. There are three common types of Boolean operators: AND, OR, NOT. You will see these listed as options on the Advanced Search page of most library databases.

  • AND: use to combine search terms and make your search more specific, will locate sources containing all specified search terms
    • conflict management AND leadership AND communication
  • OR: use for synonyms and to broaden your search, will locate sources containing any of the specified search terms
    • conflict management OR conflict resolution
  • NOT: use to exclude search terms and make your search more specific, will filter out results with specified term
    • conflict management NOT avoidance

Another strategy is to use quotation marks when you want to search for a particular phrase or concept. 

  • "social change model of leadership"

Most databases and search engines will provide options to help refine your search to save you the time of sifting through irrelevant sources. Some of the common search limiters that will be most helpful to you are

  • Full text (ensure that you can access the full text of your source, not just an abstract or portion of the source) 
  • Scholarly, peer-reviewed
  • Publication date.

If you are performing a basic search in something like Primo or one of the databases, these search limiters will appear on the left hand side of your search results. When using the advanced search feature, the search limiters will appear on the search screen.