When starting research for information or resources, it is crucial to develop a simple and straightforward question or statement. Before conducting an Internet search, identify what you hope to find as a result of your research.
- Formulate a statement, question, or series of questions about what you want to find. It may help to discuss the topic with colleagues, particularly if it is a new area for you.
- Identify key words related to your statement or question that will focus it even further.
Your topic can have many components (e.g., good customer service), or you could just be searching for one specific piece of information (such as regulations for personal care attendents on public transit buses). Brainstorm, write down or type up a brief summary of what you think you already know and what you may want to find out about the topic, which should lead to at least one question.
For example, suppose your question is, “How do I set up a non-emergency medical transportation company?” Some search engines, including Google and Ask.com, let you ask a question like this as a full sentence with a question mark at the end (without quotation marks) and produce meaningful results.
You should also enter separate searches with key words and search terms to retrieve additional relevent results. Key words or search terms for the question above include NEMT (the acronym for this type of service), Medicaid (the funding source for most NEMT providers), and other elements of the planned service, such as the vehicle type (ex: van), type of service (demand-response), or features (wheelchair-accessible). Be aware that typing two different queries (search words or phrases) into a search engine may bring up very different results, because pages are indexed based on keywords and tags entered by webmasters and content professionals.
The following are images captured from two Google searches conducted at the same time for “Non-Emergency Medical Transportation” and “NEMT.”
Always be aware that there is more than one way to say something, and that using a different word or phrase may yield better results. Some search engines, including Google, let you use quotations for "exact phrases" and Boolean connectors (AND, OR, NOT), so you can search for multiple keywords at a time.
Tip: Remember the 5 W’s: Who, what, why, where, and when.
| Who did any initial information come from?
|| Who could be asked for more information?
| What is the essence of the question?
|| What type of answer is expected?
| Why are you looking for this information?
|| Why is the issue important?
| Where would it make sense to start the research?
|| Where was the information published?
| When was this information likely to be published or stated?
|| When was the information first mentioned?