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PROJ 333: Technical Project Management: Getting Started


When we look for day-to-day information online, we think about two things:

  1. What words to type into the search bar? E.g. "Calgary Weather" 
  2. Which results are the best? E.g. Environment Canada v.s. Google Weather 

These two steps are the same for academic research. To find information for your PROJ assignments you need to understand:

  1. Developing a Search Strategy - What combination of search terms will find useful sources for my topic?
  2. Evaluating Sources - Is my source relevant, credible, current, professional, and impartial?

Choosing Search Terms

Topic - What is your research project about? 

  • e.g. Portable Microscopes


Explore Topic - Discover more about your topic, learn about it

Search online, use encyclopedias, textbooks, lesson notes, or even Wikipedia to learn more about your topic and develop a better understanding of the history, companies, people, terminology, development, innovations, news, etc. 

  • e.g. In my exploring, I discovered that Portable Microscopes are most likely used in field research and durability is very important to their effectiveness. 


Research Direction - Frame your topic as a question that needs to be answered

This gives you focus during your research process. Your topic becomes a question. The sources you find must answer that question in some way. E.g. "Portable Microscopes" becomes "Which portable microscopes are the most durable and why?"  

  • Identify the main concepts of your research direction

e.g "Which portable microscopes are the most durable and why?"  - our main concepts here are 'portable microscopes' and 'durable'. 


Related Concepts - Are there other words and concepts related to your research direction?

Think of synonyms, product names, company names, acronyms, related scientific concepts and processes.

  • Complete the concept mapping activity below to help you find more search terms and expand your search for more results. 

Illustration of a concept map

Search Terms - The words you will use to find sources through the Library (or online)

Now that you have written out related concepts for your topic, you should have a better understanding of what words to use as search terms in the library and online. Your search terms can be combined together in different ways to find sources for your topic.


Use the following Search Operators to improve the effectiveness of your online search.

  • AND - find all  the terms (ex.  "pocket microscope" AND performance)

  • OR - find any of the terms (ex. miniature OR USB)

  • NOT - exclude a certain term (ex. camera NOT Nikon)

  • " " - keep specific words together in exact order (ex. "portable microscope")

  • * -  search any ending on a root word (ex. electric* [= electric, electricity, electrical, electrician] 

Book a Study Room

Need to meet with your group? Book a group study room in the library. 

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