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HONR 200: Rhetoric

Advanced research strategies for HONR 200: Rhetoric students

Search Strategies Overview

The first step to finding sources that address your research question is developing a search strategy. What's a search strategy? It includes identifying the key words in your research question; brainstorming synonyms, narrower terms, and broader terms for those key words; trying different combinations of those search terms; and using filters and other advanced search techniques to limit your results to the most relevant sources.

On this page, you'll learn how to:

Alternative Search Words

You will be most successful finding information about your topic if you search with the same words that subject experts use to describe your topic. You can discover these words in several ways:

  • Once you've found a relevant article, scan its abstract (summary).
  • Many articles and books provide these expert keywords within the description on the search results page or near the top of the article.
  • Databases often list the keywords occurring most frequently in your search results, some of which are likely to be these expert terms. Look for a menu titled 'Subjects' or 'Thesaurus.'
  • You can search a thesaurus like to find additional suggestions when you don't know where to start.

Strategizing Your Search

This video walks you through using the VCU Libraries search while gathering concepts to use in future searches or to narrow down your topic further. 

Strategizing Your Search - Taking It to the Next Level

This video shows you how to use alternative keywords, narrow your topic, and learn more about mining citations. These search tips will help you look for a wider variety of academic research as well as focus your research question.

Citation Mining

The three-part video series below provides an introduction to citation mining, which is a method of finding sources.

  • Part 1 describes when citation mining is useful and how to locate a source that has been cited in a text in the references list/bibliography.
  • Part 2 describes how to determine the source type from the source's citation in the bibliography/references list. This important step in the citation mining process ensures that you'll find the correct source.
  • Part 3 describes how to find a source that has been cited by another source in the VCU Libraries Search (also known as the library catalog or the gold search box on the VCU Libraries website).

Navigating and Downloading from Ebooks

The video below describes how to locate and identify ebooks from VCU Libraries Search results, navigate within an ebook, and download chapters or sections of an ebook.