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APSC 261/262 - Technology and Society

Woodward Library Research Help

Can't find articles on your topic? Not sure which database to use? 

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Keywords = search terms

To start a research paper, you need to begin looking for sources. For an effective search, you need to use keywords, which are the building blocks of academic searching. There are two steps to good keyword formation:

  • Pinpoint the main concepts that compose your question
  • Expand each of those terms by brainstorming synonyms, related words and/or variant spellings.

For example, here is a research question:

  • What would the impact of an earthquake be to wired and wireless communication networks?

Before you begin searching for information, you first need to identify what the main concepts of your question are. This will help you determine the best places to look, and the best search terms to use.

Think about how your question can be simplified to 2-3 main ideas or concepts.

For this question the main concepts might be:

earthquakes    AND     communication networks

Then think of the different ways to describe these concepts:

earthquakes           AND     communication networks

seismic events                  communication service

seismic damage                telecommunications

seismic reliability             emergency communication

                                          post-disaster communications 

It might also make sense to look at wired and wireless communication networks separately and specifically, to find more detailed technical information about each. Wireless communication networks could also be called:

earthquakes            AND    wireless communication
seismic events mobile communication
seismic damage cellular communication
seismic reliability satellite communication
  wireless sensor networks

As you research your topic, you will increase your knowledge and learn terms that could potentially give you better results!

If your topic is very specific and you're not finding many resources, you may need to look at broader concepts. Then, you could support your report by extrapolating the broad information to your specific topic.

You should look for existing research about your topic to understand the past and current landscape of your engineering problem. What has already been done, and how can you take this further? Understanding the broader context of your problem will give you a deeper understanding of the problem itself. You'll also want to learn about the social contexts, so that you can acknowledge the potential experience of the end user and possible impact on the environment.

Research Skills for Engineering Students

Lean Library

Step 1: Download and install the extension:

Step 2: Select University of British Columbia

Step 3: Start searching! When off-campus, Library Access will let you know when you are on a website that the library has access to.

Step 4: Login with your UBC CWL (campus wide login)