30 min. Research Tutorial: How you successfully save time and energy - introduction

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

This 30 min. tutorial teaches you how to

  • avoid wasting precious time making random literature searches
  • avoid being criticized for using nonacademic sources
  • avoid too many unmanageable search results

Using 30 min. now will help you save time when you search, and eventually improve your paper.

Step 1: Choose your sources well !

Choose your sources well !

Watch this 02:34 video about databases and why you need them. You will get tips on how to limit your search results so you don’t drown in information and waste time.

Video: Yavapai College Library

Step 2: What do you want to write about?

This is important… (your starting point): What do you want to write about?

After watching this 02:31 min. video, you will know how to identify and choose a topic for your research paper.
(And you will know more about cookie toppings as well)

Video: McMaster University Library

Step 3: Avoid randomness, part I

Avoid randomness, part I: Choose keywords successfully and save time

By watching this 02:42 min. video, you will learn how to choose the best possible keywords to search from.

Video: McMaster University Library


Step 4: Avoid randomness, part II

Avoid randomness, part II: You will save time, trust us – make a mind map of your keywords

You can use the online tool Mindmup to make an online mind map (if you choose the free version, your mind map will be public), or you can take a piece of paper and a pencil and start brainstorming.

  1. Find your key topics based on your research question (the green circles)
  2. Brainstorm for synonyms and elaborate on the key topics (the black circles)
  3. Make additional circles, if you need to
Mind Map Template
Mind Map Template

Step 5: Fact checking: Avoid non-academic sources

Fact checking you topic: avoid critique for using non-academic sources

Reference sources are authoritative works that help you locate information about people, facts, and ideas. Use them as an academic alternative to eg. Wikipedia.

Video: The University of Guelph McLaughlin Library

Step 6: Do you need to review your mind map?

Wait a minute – did you learn something new about your topic?

If you found some interesting facts during your background reading, you might want to review your mind map. Perhaps you have some new keywords or have changed focus?

Mind Map Template
Mind Map Template

Step 7: Become a pro-searcher with just a few tricks, part I

Become a pro-searcher with just a few tricks, part I

This 03.43 min. video will teach you how to combine the keywords from your mind map with AND, OR & NOT.

Video: MacMaster University Library

Step 8: Become a pro-searcher with just a few tricks, part II

Become a pro-searcher with just a few tricks, part II

This 03.34 min. video will show you how to use boolean modifiers, which are available in almost all academic databases – to make your search accurate and avoid too much irrelevant literature about your subject.

Video: McMaster University Library

Step 9: Create a search string

Create a (universal) search string and use it more than once…

Create a search string on a piece of paper based on your keywords from your resent mind map and the tricks about AND, OR & NOT and boolean modifiers. Often you can use the same string in more than one database.

A search string could look like this: “business model” AND (“corporate social responsibility” OR CSR OR “Corporate Sustainability”)

(Pssst, you can have a look at the Boolean cheat sheet for help)

Step 10: Go out there and use your new skills

Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash

 By completing this tutorial, you now know

  • why academic databases are important for credible research
  • how to choose a topic, make a mind map, and find keywords so you don’t waste valuable time
  • how to search the databases like a pro and make a search string you can use across several databases


We have faith in you !

Finish and share


You have now completed the wizard.

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