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Module 2: Discussing Your Topic and Conducting Preliminary Research

Module 2: Discussing Your Topic and Conducting Preliminary Research

In this module, you will begin constructing an argument for your persuasive essay by taking writing notes. You will also develop
a list of keywords to help you research your subject matter. Finally, you will use those keywords to search for potential sources
to support your argument.

2-1 Video and Reading: Keywords

Video and Reading: Keywords

Keywords are the terms that are relevant to your topic that you enter into a search engine to find sources for your research.
Developing a list of effective and relevant keywords will greatly improve your search results.

While you may typically use an internet search engine like “Google” to search for everyday topics, for this project, you will be
required to use SNHU’s Shapiro Library databases for your research. You will learn more about this process later in this module.

Selecting Effective Keywords

On the next page, you will complete an activity that will help you generate several keywords related to your research topic.
Below is an overview of the steps you will take in order to identify the best keywords for your search.

Step 1: Identify your research topic and basic argument related to topic.

It is okay if your topic and basic argument are still “a work in progress”; in fact, the keyword
identification and search process may help more clearly define your topic and argument. However,
you do need a working topic/argument from which to develop keywords.

Step 2: Identify the major concepts in your research topic and argument. Analyze different
aspects of your topic and argument to distinguish the main ideas.

For example, if my research argument is “Acupuncture for performance horses helps prolong their

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careers,” the major concepts would be: acupuncture, horses, performance horses (dressage horses, jumpers, hunters, barrel
racers, etc).

Step 3: Develop keywords based on the major concepts in your topic/argument.

Now examine the main concepts you identified and evaluate their appropriateness for use as
keywords. The most useful and significant keywords will generate the best results for your research.
The best keywords are not too broad or too general. Look for specific concepts and make sure they

are directly connected to your topic.

For example, keywords based on the major concepts above would be acupuncture, horses, and performance horses; these are
the terms you would use to begin your search. The terms identified are not too broad and are related to the topic. If you had
identified main concepts as animals and veterinary care, you would need to re-evaluate your main concepts to generate more
specific keywords.

If you are having a difficult time generating keyword ideas, abstracts are good sources because authors use them to generate
“hits” on search engines. Check the end of journal articles for keywords as well.

Step 4: Assess the effectiveness of your keywords.

One way to assess the effectiveness of your keywords is to try them out and evaluate the results. If
the results generated are not what you were looking for, you should identify new keywords.

For example, if you are writing a paper on American history in the colonial period and you search the keywords America and
history, you will generate an overwhelming number of responses, most of which will not be helpful. Searching the keywords
colonial American history will yield better results. If you generate any acceptable sources, check those for additional keywords.
Using Boolean operators could also help refine your search (see Step 5).

Step 5: How to choose and use Boolean operators.

Boolean operators, the terms AND, OR, and NOT, are used to modify search results and manage the
number of responses generated by your keywords. Essentially you combine your keywords with the
Boolean operators to yield different search results in order to increase, decrease, or obtain more

specific responses. You will learn more about Boolean operators in the next section, but it’s good to know now that this will be
another, important step in this search process.

2-2 Activity: Creating Keywords (GRADED)
Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a useful visual technique for brainstorming keywords. The brain is constantly making connections between
different aspects of a problem. By capturing these connections and exploring them systematically, we are less likely to miss
possible solutions. Mind mapping is also a highly visual and efficient way of organizing ideas.

The main subject/research topic is written in the center of a sheet in a circle to begin the mind mapping process. Next, new
ideas are drawn in the form of spokes branching from this central idea. These ideas are likely to lead to further ideas which form
new spokes and so on. It can be helpful to use different colors for different branches of the map. By the end of the mind-mapping
process, you will have an entire page full of keywords related to your research topic.

The first step in creating your own mind map is to grab a blank piece of paper and a pen or pencil (several different colored pens
would be ideal). Then in the middle of the page, write down the main subject that you plan to research for the persuasive essay
project. Next, draw a circle around it:

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From the main circle, draw lines outward to represent the main ideas.

As you dig into each of the main ideas, add sub-topics and supporting evidence:

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We can take the mind map as far as it needs to go to cover all our main ideas, sub-topics, and relevant evidence.

After your mind map is complete, look over the results and pick out the most interesting terms that you have generated on the
page?these terms are your keywords.

Sample Mind Map

The image below depicts a sample mind map drawn out based on the research topic “the impact of technology on urban
education.”

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2-3 Reading: Library Databases
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2-4 Activity: Library Database Search (GRADED)
This assignment does not contain any printable content.

2-5 Assignment: Writing Notes (GRADED)
This assignment does not contain any printable content.

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  • Module 2: Discussing Your Topic and Conducting Preliminary Research
    • Module 2: Discussing Your Topic and Conducting Preliminary Research
  • 2-1 Video and Reading: Keywords
    • Video and Reading: Keywords
      • Selecting Effective Keywords
  • 2-2 Activity: Creating Keywords (GRADED)
    • Mind Mapping
    • Sample Mind Map
  • 2-3 Reading: Library Databases
    • This assignment does not contain any printable content.
  • 2-4 Activity: Library Database Search (GRADED)
    • This assignment does not contain any printable content.
  • 2-5 Assignment: Writing Notes (GRADED)
    • This assignment does not contain any printable content.
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