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Human Resources

Use this guide for help with your research for the HRM and HRG programs, including searching for credible articles for your papers, writing a literature review, and citing sources in APA style.

Research Tips

Create a Research Question and Brainstorm Keywords

1. Create a research question

A research question is a more focused version of your topic that will help you stay on course as you write a research paper. Think of it as the question that will be answered by your thesis statement. Avoid yes/no or book-report style questions that can be answered simply, such as "What is employee engagement?" Also, avoid questions that could be seen as leading or biased, such as "Why is it a bad idea to spend time and resources on team bonding exercises?" Instead, remain neutral and give yourself room to explore the research. A good final research question might look something like this: "How is an organization's performance affected by improving employee engagement?"

2. Boil down your topic into 2-4 keywords

After developing a research question, break it down into 2-4 words or short phrases. For example, using the research question listed above, the keywords could be a combination of employee engagement, performance, and improve. From those keywords, there is a better chance the database understands what you are searching for. Also, consider synonyms or alternative ways of saying the same thing. Employee Engagement, for instance, could also be referred to as Employee Involvement or Employee Satisfaction.  

Tips for Using Library Databases

3. Limit your search results by source type and/or date

Head into a database. Enter your keywords into the search fields, and click search. If you notice that there are too many results, you can always limit them by using the tools built into the database. For example, if you are searching within ABI/INFORM, you can limit by source type -- such as scholarly journals or magazines -- or publication date. This can help you better find the articles you need by eliminating everything that does not fit your criteria.  

4. Pay attention to the language being used in the database

If your search results do not seem relevant to what you're looking for, pay attention to which words the database is using to describe different topics. In ABI/INFORM, for instance, you can click the "Preview" button to see the summary of the article and the subject terms the database developers have used to tag this article. By searching with those words -- possibly synonyms to your original keywords -- you may have a better chance of finding relevant sources. Each database may use different terminology and ways of classifying the words. For instance, in ABI/INFORM they're known as Subjects, but you might also see Keywords or Descriptors

5. Use articles' references to deepen your own research

Found a good source for your topic? Be sure to check out its works cited or bibliography to find previously published articles the authors have used that might also be relevant to your research. Sometimes, you can even click on each reference within the document and link directly to the cited article. If you find an article that isn't available through the library, you can always use Interlibrary Loan to request a copy -- or contact a librarian for assistance.