September/October Topic: Working on search terms


Resolved: On balance, public subsidies for professional athletic organizations in the United States benefit their local communities.


As you do research, there is a step that is often overlooked or underused – developing your search terms.
Many teams will rely on the terms of the resolution to do their research and end up missing out on what arguments are out there. Here are a few tips to improving your search terms as well as examples from this topic.
1. Get specific.
The resolution gives you “professional athletic organizations” (PAOs) as the subject, but that doesn’t mean you are confined to this broad phrase. I would consider searching specific PAOs such as the NBA, WNBA, MLB, NFL, etc. These will uncover more articles that the phrase “professional athletic organizations” because that is what sports writers will talk about – the specific leagues. You can also search specific teams when you find that research has targeted them in order to develop your case studies.
2. Get academic.
Know what language the academics on the subject use. This may take some time because you will have to read articles in order to see the jargon used in any given topic area. For example, the resolution reads “public subsidies,”, but many articles will refer to more specific means of subsidization.
The following occur often:
  • public funding
  • taxpayer subsidies
  • cash payments
  • tax abatements
  • infrastructure improvements
  • operating cost subsidies
3. Get imaginative. 
When you want to develop an impact you haven’t found research for, try changing up your search terms. For example, a big Pro argument under this topic is intangible benefits of PAO presence in the local community. Civic pride is the easiest impact to uncover, but there are others.
Here are some combinations to try:
  • professional sports + happiness
  • professional sports + self-esteem
  • professional sports + social identification
  • professional sports + community building
  • professional sports + health

The important thing is that as you adapt and change your search terms, you keep track of what doesn’t work and what works. I would suggest writing down the search terms you try and crossing off the ones that don’t work. Highlight the effective terms so that when you come back to researching, you remember what was effective.




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