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First-Year Experience Library Guide: TOPIC SEARCH: Mississippi River

Researching the question: How is the water quality in the Mississippi River?

Step 1: Come up with keywords for the topic

The first step to doing this kind of research is to tease about the topic into different concepts.  In this case, there are two main concepts:

  1. Mississippi River
  2. Water quality

Now we want to brainstorm what other words might be used for each of the concepts.  Take a moment to think about how an author might write about the topic.  What words might they use for the different concepts?

Here's some ideas, but feel free to come up with your own terms:

  1. Mississippi River: use the term Mississippi River 
  2. Water quality: use terms like water quality or water pollution 

How did we come up with these terms?

There are a few ways to come up with these terms, you can do your own brainstorming, you can search for some articles and see what other terms come up, or some databases have a list of Subject Terms that will give you ideas for other terms to use in a search.  In this case, we did all three!

Step 2: Go to GreenFILE and use the terms you came up with to search for articles

Click on the GreenFILE link below

(you can also search for any library database by using the Databases tab on the front page of the library's website.)

One of the nice things about GreenFILE (and many other databases from EBSCOhHost) is that it is set up to help break about a topic into different concepts.  You can put words or phrases for a concept in each search box. 

screen shot of the Greenfile search boxes. The first box says "Mississippi River" the second box says "water quality or water polution"

Click search to see the results. If you're not getting results that you like, try changing some of the search terms.


Step 3: Narrow to peer-reviewed articles

At this point, you should have some results from your search.  Since GreenFILE has lots of different types of articles, let's go ahead and look only at the scholarly articles.

Click on the box next to "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" on the left side of the results screen.

screen shot of "Limit to" section of the GreenFILE results screen. The box next to "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed Journals)" is checked.

Step 4: Choose an article and read the abstract

Take a look at the results and choose one that sounds interesting to you.  Click on the title of the article and read the abstract.

Come to class prepared to talk about what you learned.