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Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management

This is a basic library guide for students and faculty in the Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management Department and will help you with your assignments and research.

Getting Started

                teacher in classroom

This is the reference guide for REC 470's library instruction class to prepare you for your project of developing a research proposal.  Below you will find library resources and research techniques that we discussed in class.

Research Process

1. Choose a topic

Your first step is to decide what the topic of your research will be and then to develop a strategy for working on the assignment. Is the topic interesting to you? Is it manageable? You may want to ask yourself whether there is a problem in your field that requires a solution or a question for which you'd like to find an answer.

Example: Exercise programs help stroke patients recover faster. True or False?


2. Develop keywords and search strategies

Think of keywords or terms that you would use to describe your topic. You might read several articles, newspapers, or encyclopedia entries, etc. to get an overview of your subject. Find a few articles on your topic and see what keywords are assigned.  These are often listed beneath the abstract.

Example: Use the terms Stroke, exercise, progress, recovery In searching the databases. Found that the medical term for stroke was "Cerebrovascular Disease" and added the term "treatment programs" when searching for journal articles.


3. Review/refine

Read existing literature on your topic and reshape your focus as needed. Make sure that you are not proposing a topic that has already been extensively researched. 

Decide what types of sources will help you. Are there particular journal titles that focus on this topic?

Keep track of all the resources that you use so that you can easily cite them later.  Using a free citation manager like Zotero could help with this.

Search Tips

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT are used to link together search terms in different ways.  You can use Boolean operators to help you shape your search to get the results that you need. You can use Boolean operators in SouthernSearch, library databases, as well as Google and Google Scholar.

The image below illustrates how each operator might affect your search results, where the circle represents all possible results associated with your search word or phrase, and the shaded area represents how many available results will display based on the structure of your search string.

venn diagrams illustrating Boolean Operators: And = only results that contain both keywords, or = results containing keywords a or b, not = results containing keyword a and excluding keyword b

This image by Cecelia Vetter is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.



If your search word might turn up in articles in various forms, you might want to use a truncation symbol (*) so that your search results include all possible forms of a word. Just use an asterisk to replace the part of the word that varies.  This will broaden your results.

Example: econ* would return results containing economy, economic, economical, etc.



If you need to search an exact phrase, as opposed to all of your keywords individually, include your phrase in quotation marks.  Searching for an exact phrase will narrow your results.


Search Strategy Builder

The Search Strategy builder below was created by our librarians to help you create a search string using Boolean operators. Try it out! Enter terms related to your topic (using truncation or quotation marks if necessary), click to create your search strategy, then copy and paste the result into SouthernSearch or the search bar of your preferred database.

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.

Citation Chaining

Citation chaining refers to the practice of using an article's references and citations to locate additional research on the same or related topics.

Backward chaining: look at the bibliography or references listed by an article to see what sources they've cited.  This will lead you to older publications that informed the research of the current article.

Forward chaining: find other articles that have cited the current article in their references.  This will lead you to more recent articles that used the current article to inform their research.  Some publisher sites provide this information. Another good place to find out where an article has been cited by others is the Web of Science database.

Evaluating Resources

Once you begin to find search results that look relevant, you will want to make sure that they are the type of source most useful for your research.  You may want to make sure that you are looking at a scholarly resource.  Most of the resources you will find through the library website are scholarly, but you can always filter your results to "peer-reviewed" to make sure.  


The following criteria will help you identify if the journal is a peer-reviewed journal or a popular magazine.

  • Abstract: The full text often begins with an abstract or summary containing the main points of the article.
  • Authors: Authors’ names are clearly listed with credentials/degrees and affiliations which are often universities or research institutions. The authors would be considered experts in the field.
  • Audience: The language of the article uses a vocabulary or specialized language intended for other scholars in the field, not for the average reader.
  • Graphics & Images: The graphics are more likely to include tables, graphs and charts that are as important as the article text. There will be few if no advertisements.
  • Length: Scholarly articles are often, but not always, longer than the popular articles found in general interest magazines such as Time or Newsweek.
  • Peer-Reviewed: Scholarly articles are evaluated by other experts before the article is published. This is called a peer-reviewed article. Journals that review and evaluate their articles will be called peer-reviewed journals.


Primary vs. secondary?

  • A primary source is a document created by the person such as a speech, diary, letters, dissertation, original research or the results of an experiment.
  • A secondary source interprets and analyzes the original documents. This can be a recreation textbook, journal article, peer-reviewed journal article.


You may also want to pay attention to what type of research you're looking at:

  • A literature review provides an overview of existing research in a field or on a topic.  This type of article is good when you want to get an understanding of what kind of research is happing in a certain area.
  • Systematic reviews look at a smaller number of sources and use more structured analysis
  • A meta-analysis provides a statistical overview of studies
  • A randomized controlled trial
  • Qualitative vs. quantitative research:
    • Qualitative research relies on observed information and open ended questions that may be based on interviews or focus groups. 
    • Quantitative research relies on more close ended questions and numerical data. 
    • Some studies may use one or both of these research methods.

Manage Your Research

Create an EBSCO folder

Some databases offer the option of creating a free account on the database web site that allows you to access some personalized features, such as saving articles to folders.  The video below outlines how you can do this for our EBSCO databases.  We get our databases from many different vendors, like EBSCO or ProQuest--you may have noticed different banners at the tops of the databases as you do your research.  Creating an account on a database site will only work for databases from that same vendor.  Many of the databases best suited to Recreation are from EBSCO, so making an EBSCO account might be useful if you want to track the research you do in our EBSCO databases.

Use a citation manager

Citation managers help you keep track of all the sources you find during your research.  They help you save the information you will need when writing your citations for your reference list.  You can also use them to categorize lists of sources in folders.  Check out this guide for more information on what citation management tool might be useful for you: