This is the "Selecting and Analyzing a Topic" page of the "Intercultural Relations Research Guide" guide.
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Intercultural Relations Research Guide   Tags: communication, intercultural, intercultural, mair;, relations;  

This guide will assist students in the MAIR program with their research projects.
Last Updated: Jan 28, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Selecting and Analyzing a Topic Print Page

Selecting a Topic

Base your selection of a topic on answers to the following:

  • Is the topic of interest to me? (You will be looking at it for a long time.) 
  • Can I realistically perform the research with the time and resources available to me?
  • Will my research present new information and contribute to the field as a whole?

Do some preliminary reading about your topic. Encyclopedias or news magazines can provide:

  • Useful keywords
  • Overviews of the current status of the topic
  • Names of the important scholars in the field



    Testing Your Topic

    Begin by learning your way around the library homepage, The homepage connects you with a variety of research tools and guides.

    Test your topic by searching for it in library catalogs and databases. This provides a preliminary assessment of the viability of your research topic.

    At first, your topic will be rather vague and broad; for example, "ethnic identity". Although many topics in this field are clearly interdisciplinary, it is still useful to think about the topic's subject orientation.

    For example:

    Topic = Ethnic Identity
    Are you interested in how individuals perceive ethnic identity?
    Do you want to market products targeted to a particular ethnic group?
    Are you planning to discuss conflict resolution among ethnic groups?

    Forming a Search Strategy

    Keyword vs. subject searching: begin by performing a keyword search. In most databases, this will lead to more precise subject terms. Many databases also have online thesauri to help you locate the subject terms they use. Not every database allows searching by subject terms.  For some you may have to rely on a keyword search. Subjects terms are frequently unique to a particular database.  If you locate a relevant subject term in one database, it might not be used in another database.  

    Boolean operators present subject terms in a manner easily processed by the computer. For example, if your topic is the influence of ethnic identity on marketing to women, you should not type "the effect of women's ethnicity on marketing." Instead, use "AND" and "OR" to construct search queries.

    AND to narrow your search to find both terms.

    Example: ethnic identity AND marketing

    OR to broaden your search to retrieve either of the terms.

    Example: women OR females                                                              

    Your final search statement could be:

    (women or females) AND (ethnic* AND marketing)

    Truncation is a search technique that is used by many electronic databases. It allows you to search for variations to a word's root. Usually, but not always, truncation is indicated by the asterisk (*). For example, elect* would retrieve any of the following: elections, election, elective or, unfortunately, electron.

    Subject Guide


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