Answered By: Allison McDermott
Last Updated: Sep 19, 2023     Views: 70

When researching a controversial topic, begin by doing background research on the topic. This gives you a better understanding of the issue and helps further narrow down your research since topics like PTSD or homelessness are very broad. For additional assistance see the Background Research tip sheet.

Once you have a better understanding of the topic and narrowed what you want to know about it, begin by opening the Advanced Search link within the Library OneSearch box. We recommend beginning your research with this database because it searches most of the library's collection at once. Additionally, the advanced search option will provide you with three separate search boxes to enter your search terms.

yellow arrow pointing to advanced search.

Once on the Advanced Search page, enter the concepts you want to search for into the search boxes, using one concept per box. 

Below are some searches you may want to use for the following topics:  


In the first box, type ptsd or post traumatic stress disorder. If you were interested in researching ptsd and military veterans you could type, veterans or military or soldiers or servicemen in the second box. Other options include children or kids or youth or child or domestic violence or domestic abuse or intimate partner violence.

Advanced search for PTSD and Military Veterans

Gun Control 

In the first box, type gun control or gun laws or gun regulations. If you are interested in researching this topic in relation to school shootings type, school shootings or mass shootings in the second box. Other search options include gang violence or America or united states or us or usa.

Advanced search for gun control and school shootings


In the first box, type homelessness or homeless persons or homeless or unhoused. If you are interested in researching this topic as it relates to mental health type, mental health or mental illness or mental disorder or psychiatric illness into the second box. Other search terms you could type in the second box include low income housing or housing vouchers or low rent or children or adolescents or youth or child or teenager.

 Advanced search for homelessness and mental health

You can then select the "Limit to Scholarly / Peer Reviewed" limiter on the left side of the page to only display scholarly peer-reviewed sources. You can use the other limiters, like Publication Date, to further limit your results to be more current and relevant to your needs.

Limit to scholarly/peer reviewed between 2018 to 2023

The Subject limiters box on the left side of the page can be another great place to narrow your results or find additional ideas for keywords you may want to search. Select the Show More button to see more subject keywords in your results and select a few if you'd like to narrow your results.

Subject section for Homeless and Mental Health

Another great place to look for additional search terms to help you narrow your results is the Subjects section available with most articles listed in the search results. You can copy and paste any one of these search terms into one of the three search boxes or add a box to see how these impact your results.

Red box around the subject area for a result about homelessness and mental health

Here are a few more tips to help your research: 

  • Go through the first page or two of your search results. If you do not find a resource that will work for you, revise your search. 

  • You can use quotations when searching for multiple words in one phrase, like "military personnel psychology." This tells the database you want only results with those words appearing next to each other in that specific order. 

  • You can search for different words that refer to similar things by using OR, and this will give you more results.  For example, you could search for school shootings or mass shootings in one search box, and the database will find any articles with either of those phrases. 

  • Another time-saving tip is to click your mouse on the piece of paper with the magnifying glass on it (to the right of the article titles). That will bring up the abstract, which is a summary of the article. Reading this will help you decide if the article is relevant to your topic and worthwhile to click on and read in its entirety. 

  • If you need assistance deciding if an article meets your research needs please see the How can I determine if an article meets my research needs and if I should use it in my assignment? QuickAnswer.  

  • For assistance interpreting a scholarly article, this tip sheet on How to Read a Scholarly Article may be helpful. 

If you still have questions you can chat in real-time with a librarian here. 

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