Santee AP Students Research Guide: Research Questions & Search Strategies

Searching strategies

For a guide on how to use the USC Libraries' main search box, consult the Libraries' User Guide.

You can find tips for searching Google Scholar here.

Developing a research question

When selecting your research topic and question, be flexible - questions often shift as you begin to do more research. Iteration is part of the research process. Narrowing a topic to a manageable question can be difficult. Some common ways to refine a question include focusing on: a specific person (like a cartoonist or politician), a geographic location (like California), specific groups (like women or immigrants), a specific aspect of the subject, or the viewpoint of a specific discipline (like history or literature).

For practice and additional tips complete the tutorial on crafting a good research question below.

Search Strategies


  • Work from the general to the specific - Start big and work your way down

  • Avoid full sentences - Use keywords

  • Keep track of keywords that work well

  • Use advanced search features and combine keywords with AND, OR, and quotation marks to create more precise searches