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The Research Process

A guide to help develop skills in how to develop a research question and find resources to support your thesis.

Where to Search

Once you have developed your topic and keywords, searching can begin.

Where will you search?

The library has over 300 databases that contain millions of information resources. These databases can be searched simultaneously through OneSearch, a one-stop shopping search tool found on the library homepage, or you can search in individual databases. Databases may be multidisciplinary covering many subjects or they may focus on a particular subject such as Psychology, Business, etc. They may also contain certain formats of materials such as journal articles, eBooks, or just streaming videos or they may contain a variety of formats.

Go to the A-Z Database List linked on the library homepage. When the list loads, browse the descriptions of each, or search by subject, type, and vendor...or type in the name of a database to find it.

The library also creates research guides for Saybrook programs. These guides are organized by subject and contain recommended databases in your program.

Click the Find Resources tab in the library navigation bar and scroll to Searching Tips and Techniques to learn numerous techniques for becoming a more efficient and effective searcher in the library databases.

Searching Tips and Techniques


  • Words to use when beginning a search
  • Break your research question into main ideas
  • The main ideas become simple keywords to search in library databases
  • Keep a keyword list
  • Use synonyms and antonyms for your keywords
  • Example research question extracting keywords: What is the relationship between test performance and retention of ESL students?
    • Keyword = test performance, retention, ESL students
    • Synonyms: tests, exams, test-taking skill, test anxiety, academic achievement
    • Antonyms: student dropouts, student attrition, dropout prevention

Use AND, NOT and OR between search terms to narrow or broaden a search.


Use quotation marks around one or more keywords or a phrase to define precisely how you want the words to appear in the results.


Truncation allows for search of words that could have multiple endings and uses the asterisk (*) symbol.

Wildcards are symbols, such as a question mark (?), to replace letters in words where there are unknown or multiple possible characters.


Similar to formulas in algebra, nesting is useful for concepts that are expressed in multiple ways. 

Example: teenager = adolescent = young adult = teen

  • Use parentheses () to keep concepts that are alike together. This tells the database to search nested terms first.


How close are two or more search terms in the results? 

Example: curriculum theories = theories of curriculum = theories involving curriculum = theories about curriculum, etc.

  • Search curriculum N3 theories: searches for curriculum within three words of theories


A field is a specific part of a database record such as author, title, subject, year of publication, etc. Use the Advanced Search within OneSearch or individual databases to enter search terms and use the dropdown menus to search by a particular field.


Most databases have a controlled vocabulary which are descriptive words assigned to an article. Articles with similar themes are classified together under a specific subject heading. Using the terms in the thesaurus is a more focused way to search.