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English 277 Technical Writing for Engineering: Word Strategies

Guide to the research process for the class.

Words, Words, Words

One of the most important aspects of research is finding the right words to find the information you want. Consider the following ideas as you work on your topic:

  • Who is the audience for your research project?  You will want to look for "evidence" that is compelling to them.
  • Who is creating the research/information you need?  Government agencies?  Researchers?  Industries?  How are they likely to be talking about the topic?

Each of these questions influences how and where you should look for resources for your research paper.  Briggs Library has a variety of databases and access points to help you find quality information.

For example, suppose you are interested in proposing installation of solar panels on a parking garage to help offset electricity costs. Let's look at words you might choose:

Topic Concepts
Solar Panels Parking Garage

Additional terms to consider:  solar cells, solar energy, photovoltaic power systems, photovoltaic cells

Additional terms to consider:  parking lots, parking facilities, parking structures

Databases often have other words you can use.  See the Search Strategies pages of the Research 101 Guide to learn more.

Exercise

Take a few minutes and think about your topic.

  • Who is your audience?
  • Who is creating the work (documents, articles, reports, etc.) you might need?
  • Identify your core concepts and write down some alternative words that other people might use in discussing them.
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