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Jyväskylän yliopiston Koppa

HUOM! Kopan käyttö päättyy 31.7.2024! Lue lisää.


Identify key concepts

by Tuija Irmeli Oksman last modified Jul 06, 2018 11:04 AM

    Systematic information seeking starts with defining your topic, formulating your research questions and identifying the key concepts of your study. Finding background information is an important step when defining the topic. At this stage, you are not yet systematically searching for scientific sources for the theoretical background of your study. Instead, your main target is to get enough general knowledge about your subject to get properly started with you work.

    mind map helps you organize your thoughts and ideas, and to articulate your topic idea. 

    Read about the subject matter to get an overview of your topic and to clarify your approach to the subject matter. Get to know the terminology by consulting encyclopedias, reference works, handbooks, dictionaries and thesauri in databases. You should also find out what aspects of the topic have been studied before. 

    To formulate your research questions, think about what you want to find out about your topic. What is it you wish to ask? Research question is a question such as "How does organizational commitment impact employee wellbeing?" Research questions should be open-ended questions starting with why, what, when etc.

    Topic > Research questions > Key concepts > Search terms

    On this page, you'll find suggestions on where to look for background information. But first, start with the video Where do search terms come from? (4 min) shows you how to work on your search terms.

    Choose English subtitles from the quotation mark icon below the video screen:
    (If the video does not work below, use this link to watch the video.)

    Sources for background information

    Your prior knowledge of the topic

     How did you find your topic? What was said about it? Who were referred to?
    Classics and key sources in your field How is the topic handled in key sources, classics and other essential works in your field?
    Reference books An excellent way of getting familiar with concepts, terminology, research traditions of your field and topic
    Review articles
    A direct route to getting to know the best sources for your topic. Pay attention to the date of publication.
    Theses and dissertations Often include literary review and/or a summary about research tradition.
    Social media and the web Are there any blogs or other web resources by researchers that are important for your subject matter?
    MOT-dictionaries For finding terminology translations and synonyms

    After getting an overview of your topic and clarifying your approach, you will be able to define

    • your central perspectives on the topic
    • the relationships between the different perspectives and their concepts
    • alternative search terms 

    A common stumbling block in information seeking is getting stuck with one or few search terms that you don't want to change. Sometimes you need to try alternatives, synonyms or narrower and broader concepts.

    Reference works, encyclopedias and review articles

    Reference works, handbooks and encyclopedias are all sources that you can use to find basic facts and concepts related to your topic. Consulting these along with literature reviews is a great way to get an overview of your topic. You can find following material in printed and/or electronic format in the library:
    All electronic reference books can be accessed via JYKDOK. 
    • Encyclopedic reference books
    • Handbooks
    • Dictionaries
    • Thesauri with subject terms (often in databases)

    How to search for encyclopedias in JYKDOK 

    • When you know the name of the book, do a basic search, e.g. "Encyclopedia of political theory".
    • To find field-specific encyclopedias, try advanced search using your subject, e.g. "political science" AND encyclopedia.
      If you can't find anything, try to be less specific, e.g. "education" instead of "early childhood education".

    Searching for online encyclopedic databases in JYKDOK

    • When you know the name of the database, do a basic search, e.g. "Oxford reference online".
    • You can browse encyclopedic databases: choose Search functions (in the blue bar, top of page) > Browse for databases > Research area > e.g. Handbooks and dictionaries
    • If you want to search for subject-related reference books or encyclopedic databases, search by entering your subject field, 
      e.g. education reference books. Do the search and choose Databases in the right-hand side menu.

    Review articles

    • Review articles are summaries of previously published studies and their results: they outline what kind of research has been published on a topic or research area, who the most notable researchers are, what kind of problems or gaps there are in the research.
    • You will find reviews in international databases specific to your field.
    • Not to be confused with articles where a single book is reviewed or with peer-review. Review articles can be peer-reviewed or not.
    • Also: literature review, systematic review, meta-analysis, meta-synthesis, survey article.

    Example: Use your preliminary research subject as a search term, and add "review", "literature review" or "review article". E.g.
    "environmental management" 

    Refer to Resources by Subject -pages to find out about recommended reference works in your academic field!


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