Starting Research: Get the Big Picture
Once you have a basic idea of what your topic is, you'll need to get an idea of the big picture. What are the major issues involved in your topic? What are the terms associated with it?
Reference sources are a great way to begin your search. They'll show you which sources experts recommend and give you ideas for specific areas of the topic you may want to research. These are often broad and general, so it's best to start here and narrow your topic down as you progress.
This is not an exhaustive list - these are just some possible keywords to help you start thinking about generating your own keywords.
Rites and ceremonies
Customs and Practices (often modified with a specific tradition, such as Judaism or Hinduism)
Dance -- Religious aspects
Marriage customs and rites
Initiation ritual of boys inMalawi
By Steve Evans from Citizen of the World (Malawi) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Building a bank of keywords will make the rest of your research much simpler.
1. Gather background information, which will give you some key words to start with, and make your research a little easier.
2. Brainstorm other search terms: think of synonyms, or more technical terms, or official language vs. colloquial language
3. Think of some narrower search terms to get even more specific and some broader words in case you aren't finding much.
4. Think about what ideas and terms are related to your subject that might also be helpful.
Even when you've got a good keyword bank started, keep adding to it!
If you find a good article or book, look at the data record to see what other terms and subjects are used to describe it.
Remember that with library resources especially, it pays to search smart:
use AND in between search terms to group them together
use OR for more results
use NOT if you want to exempt a word from your results
use quotation marks "_" to isolate phrases
use the wildcard * to get all versions of a word
Research & Instruction Librarian, Associate Professor