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How To Write a Research Paper

Create a Concept Map

Create a concept map of your topic. A concept map is a visual diagram that shows the relationship between different ideas related to your topic.

To create a concept map:

  1. First list your general topic. For example:
    • Obesity
  2. Make a list of subtopics related to this general topic: For example:
    • Who is affected?
    • Causes
    • Effects
    • Prevention
  3. Make a list of sub-sub-topics related to each sub-topic. For example:
    • Who is affected? -- Children, Men, Women
    • Causes -- Genetics, Poor diet, Sedentary lifestyle
    • Effects -- Poor mental health, Poor physical health, Low self-esteem
    • Prevention -- Better diet/nutrition, More exercise/physical fitness, Better medical interventions
  4. You can break down each of the sub-sub-topics further if needed. For example:
    • The sub-sub topic Poor Diet be broken further into -- More fast food, Bigger portion sizes, Higher caloric intake, etc.

Make a List of Keywords / Search Terms

Selecting the right keywords is important when you begin searching. Keywords are the most important parts of your topic and are necessary to properly communicate with the different research tools you'll be using. Here are some tips to choosing keywords:

  1. Never use whole sentences or long statements
  2. Nouns usually make the best keywords
  3. Keep adding, subtracting, and replacing keywords you use to find a variety of results
  4. Expand your list by using synonyms, subject terms, and more specific concepts

Below are some examples of education-related keywords to help you get started:

  • academic achievement
  • academic improvement
  • class size
  • college preparation programs
  • college readiness
  • education
  • effectiveness
  • family-school relationships
  • high school
  • parent participation
  • parental influence
  • parental involvement
  • parents
  • parent-school relationships
  • parent-teacher cooperation
  • parent-teacher organizations
  • private schools
  • public schools
  • school
  • school environment
  • school involvement
  • student performance
  • teacher effectiveness
  • teacher-student ratios

After you have chosen your keywords, you'll want to combine them to form a search statement. You can combine words using "AND" in between. Have more than one word as a keyword? Put quotations around it. This will tell the database or search engine that you using a phrase and not just individual words. Here are few examples drawn from the above keyword list:

→ "academic achievement" AND "class size"

→ education AND children AND "parental involvement"

→ "teacher-student ratios" AND "public schools"