Skip to Main Content


PSY 345: Cognitive Psychology (Browning)

Sample Research Plan

The following sample research plan illustrate how a Research Plan can help you develop and keep track of search terms that are useful in finding information sources on your topic.  (For a blank form, and instructions on how to use it, see the Creating a Research Plan box below.) 

How a Research Plan Helps You Search for Sources

Why use a Research Plan?

A Research Plan can help you strategize about what are the most successful search terms to use in library databases to find books, articles, government documents, and more for your papers/assignments. 

Typing in your entire research question or thesis statement does not work well when using these databases to find sources

What usually happens when you do this is that one of two equally bad options, either 

  1. you get thousands of hits, many of which are not relevant (and in any case, they are too numerous for you to wade through to find the valuable sources); or 
  2. you get very few, or zero, hits because your number of search terms overwhelms the database.
Creating a Research Plan can help you avoid these problems
  • Keep in mind that your Research Plan is an evolving document; by the time you're finished, it may be all marked up, with some terms scratched off, and other terms added, with notes to yourself about various things to remember when searching, etc. 
  • You may also find in the course of searching for sources that one set of terms works best for finding books, while another combination may work better when searching for magazine articles, and still another when looking for journal articles.
  • Your goal is to try to find the best combination of terms that produces the best set of sources to satisfy your information needs.

To get an idea of how this form might look, see the Sample Research Plan in the box to the left below,

To get started creating your own plan, see the  Creating a Research Plan box directly below, which contains a link to a blank Research Plan form for you to print off and fill in as needed, along with instructions on how to use this tool to help you in your research.   .

Creating a Research Plan

Make your search for resources more productive by using the following blank Research Plan worksheet:

  • Pose your topic in the form of a statement OR a question.
  • Choose 2-4 most important terms (keywords) drawn directly from your research statement/question and write each in the Keywords column in separate boxes.
  • In the synonyms column, write at least ONE synonym, or related term (broader or narrower) for each keyword.

Tip:  For ideas for synonyms/related terms, write down in the Synonyms/Related Terms column any subject headings from a helpful book or article citation record to use as potential search terms.