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IDS 311 - Research Methods in Interdisciplinary Studies

A guide to starting interdisciplinary research.

Interdisciplinary Studies Librarian

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Wendy Hardenberg
Buley Library, Room 122-K

Steps in the Research Process

1. Choose a topic.

2. Decide on a search strategy to find the information you need. (This guide will help you do that.)

3. Formulate a question about your topic that your research will try to answer. (It's easier to sort through resources if you're looking for stuff that will help you answer a question.)

4. Evaluate the information you've found.

5. Revise your research question based on your new knowledge.

6. Write the paper! (Remember to cite your sources correctly!)

What if you can't think of a topic?

Suggested Resources:  

Your own interests (what do you want to know more about?)

Your professor

A librarian who specializes in an area of interest to you

The most important thing for interdisciplinary studies is to choose a topic than can be looked at in several different ways.

Search Strategy

For the sake of practice, let's say you want to write your literature review on the following topic:

the immigrant experience in the United States

Now what?

When searching for sources, it’s important to use keywords. Keywords are significant or descriptive words that convey your topic in as few words as possible. To search effectively, you also need to think of synonyms for your keywords, because different writers may use different words for the same idea, especially writers from different disciplines.


The keywords in the example topic would be immigrant, experience, and United States.


Possible synonyms for immigrant: migrant, refugee, asylum seeker, naturalized citizen, undocumented, colonist

Possible synonyms for experience: struggle, adjustment, welcome, success, integration, alienation, schooling, work

Possible synonyms for United States: America, USA, Connecticut, [any other state, city, or region in this country]


After you've identified keywords and synonyms for your own topic, use the Search Strategy Builder below to generate a search string you can use in library databases and Google. Remember to put phrases in quotes! (e.g. "United States")

Search Strategy Builder

 Search Strategy Builder

The Search Strategy Builder is a tool designed to teach you how to create a search string using Boolean logic. While it is not a database and is not designed to input a search, you should be able to cut and paste the results into most databases’ search boxes.

  Concept 1 AND Concept 2 AND Concept 3
Name your concepts here (Keywords)    
Search terms Search terms Search terms
List alternate terms for each concept.

These can be synonyms, or they can be specific examples of the concept.

Use single words or short phrases. Surrounding the phrases with quotation marks will give better results in some databases and search engines, like Google Scholar. Example: "global warming"













Now copy and paste the above Search String into a search box; try SouthernSearch or choose another Database.

The Search Strategy Builder was developed by the University of Arizona Libraries and is used under a Creative Commons License, via Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh at Georgia State.