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PPOL 5170 - Public Management and Leadership: Research Strategy & Techniques

Research Strategies

These strategies are not "do it once in this order & be done". Instead, they are recommendations for approaches that are often done several times  at different points in your research .

  1. Start with what you have been given - Class Readings & Lectures
    1. Ideas, information, data,  themes, methods of analysis from  lectures
    2. Ideas, information, data, themes, arguments, from readings
  2. Look for clues in your readings (syllabus)
    1. Main argument, findings  (in abstract? in conclusion?)
    2. Theory or theories used?
    3. Keywords, special terms?
    4. Important authors?
    5. References to other articles, books, statistics  in assigned readings (for your follow-up)  = Classic Scholarly Method
  3. Use References from things you & find  & read = The Classic Scholarly Method - Known Item
    1. When you do research, you will find things cited in papers & books you read. You can then look those up and read them.
  4. Think about the arguments & evidence from the readings and lectures and other info
    1. See if/how they apply to your topic
    2. What questions do they give you?   Start to search for answers or evidence that might lead you to your answer, your theory, your argument.
  5. Use smart search techniques in those search tools

Known or Unknown Item?

There are two classic ways to search for articles, book chapters,etc.

1. Known Item search

  • You have the title of the article, or the name of the author. For example, in your reading you find this reference:
  • In-text : (Plüss 2006)  |  End-of paper:  Plüss, Caroline. "Becoming Different While Becoming the Same: Re-territorializing Islamic Identities with Multi-ethnic Practices in Hong Kong." Ethnic and Racial Studies 29, no. 4 (2006): 656-75.
  • You want this specific item.

2. Unknown Item search

  • You have an idea of what sort of thing you  would like to find - but no specific title or author in mind. 
    • Try topic key words
    • Try words to do with theories or methodologies

"What is Citation Chaining" - Claremont Colleges Library (2 min 3 sec)

Citation Chaining - Web of Science - UNSW Canberra

Citation Chaining - GoogleScholar - Seattle U

Use Search Fields

Using Search  fields (e.g. title)  can help you focus your search  

When using a search engine (database),

  • Be aware of what field you are searching (title only? full-text? subject?)
  • Use search fields to modify your searching & get results you like better
  • You will often find search fields under "Adcanced Search" and with drop down menus

Example: Search fields in Proquest

Search field





ab (“ethnic minorities”)



ti (ethnic minorities in hong kong)

Publication title


pub (“migration”)






au( Pluss, Caroline)





yr (2008)





su( racial discrimination)





loc ("Hong Kong")

Example - Search Technique 3 - Boolean Searching

Combining Keywords into search statements using Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators  Examples of Using Boolean Operators


 - All keywords must appear in the results
– Narrows a search, find less numbers of record

   e-waste  AND  Japan


–Any one or all of the keywords should appear
–Broadens a search, find more

"e-waste" OR "electronic waste"

(  )

Brackets combine keywords of similar concept


("e-waste" OR "electronic waste" ) 


(Japan OR  Japanese)



Don't make your search too long and complicated.

Begin by combining only TWO aspects (focus areas) at a time.

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