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SPH F150: Intro to Lifespan Development

Mind Maps

Mind maps help you:

  • brainstorm ideas
  • visualize ideas
  • see how your ideas relate to a central concept
  • "brain dump" -- or get stuff out of your head and onto paper!

Paper and pencil works great, but there are lots of apps out there, too!



Outlines are valuable at many stages of research!

Tentative outlines:

  • useful when beginning your research
  • help you map out what you know
  • guiding questions:
    • What do I know a lot about already?
    • What do I need to research more?

Working outlines:

  • useful when you are starting to write
  • acts as a guide for your rough draft
  • helps you think through your ideas, and the relationships between your ideas
  • helps your ideas flow in a logical manner
  • guiding questions:
    • How am I going to present my information?
    • How am I going to tie my information together?

Formal outlines:

  • formal guidance for a reader
  • uses numbers, letters, indentations
  • two approaches:
    • topic outlines - brief ideas or phrases
    • sentence outlines - entire sentences / descriptions of what you will state in each section


Research Logs

Tracking your research helps you keep a record of what you have done, what you found, as well as a space to take notes about your searches.

These are also helpful when you've taken a break from working on a project -- notes help make it easier to pick up a project again!

You can use a journal, a spreadsheet, a running document -- as long as it documents what you do.

Creating a good search string

Creating a search string takes practice! You can break down your search into steps:

  1. Write down your central research question
  2. Break your question down into bite-sized concepts -- one or two word phrases that capture an idea.
  3. Tie your bite-sized concepts together with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), which makes a phrase in a language databases can understand.

More on Boolean Operators

There are three Boolean operators: AND, OR, and NOT.

AND will make your search more precise and narrow, so you will get fewer results.

OR will make your search more broad, so you will get more results.

NOT excludes phrases from your search. Use NOT very carefully, or not at all, because it can unintentionally exclude relevant results.

More on Writing a Search a Database Will Understand

After you come up with your concepts, string them together with the Boolean Operators.

So if I wanted to search for the history of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, as well as the use of almond butter in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I might have a search string like:

("peanut butter" OR "almond butter") AND (jelly) AND (sandwich).

More tips:

  • You don't need to include parentheses around each of your concepts, but it can help you see how things are connected.
  • Capitalize your Boolean Operators. Some databases recognize lowercase, but other's don't, and it isn't always obvious who does what!
  • "putting quotes" around a phrase means the database will look for that phrase exactly. This can be useful when you want to look for peanut butter, but not the term butter. (Most databases will put an AND between any words that don't have a connector between them -- so a database that sees peanut butter will think, "Oh, they mean peanut AND butter!").

Citation Managers

Citation managers help you manage your citations!

I recommend Zotero -- because you can use it for free now, and if you want to use that research after you graduate (for example, you are going to graduate school), you can take it with you.

There's a lot more about citation mangers on the Citation Mangers & Citation Styles tab!

Finding Stuff not at IU (Interlibrary Loan)

The IU Libraries partner with hundreds of Libraries across the world! If you have found an item, there's a good chance we can find a way to help you borrow it through Interlibrary Loan. Learn more about ILL in the tutorial below.