When writing a research paper, don't pick a topic that is too broad. You can narrow down your topic to a manageable size by limiting your topic by time period, geographic area, population group or other aspect. Then pose your topic in the form of a question which you will try to answer in your paper . For example:
Issue : Black Death + Geographic Area : England
Paper Topic: How did the Black Death affect England?
You can focus your topic even more if you wish:
Issue : Black Death + Geographic Area : England + Population Group : Peasants
Paper Topic : How were the lives of peasants in England affected by the Black Death?
Now that you have your topic, pick out your topic KEYWORDS. You will use your Keywords to search the catalog and databases. Do NOT use whole sentences.
How were the lives of peasants affected by the Black Death in England?
To join your keywords together use AND:
peasants AND England
To broaden your search use OR:
Black Death OR Plague
To find variant endings of a word use an asterisk * to truncate:
peasant* will find peasant, peasants, peasantry etc.
Put quotation marks around phrases to keep words together:
Think of different words that mean the same thing as your original keywords, they may be broader or narrower:
peasants - laborers - serfs
Try different keywords combinations to find additional results:
peasants AND England AND "Black Death"
peasants AND England AND plague
serfs AND England AND "Black Death"
Try your keyword combinations using different databases to find more articles.