Researching the Saudi Aff 2- Some “search” tips

I got a lot of questions about how to do follow up searches- which is great, but for future reference the other parts will be handled in other posts like picking advantages, writing the 1AC, answering disads etc.


But since apparently a lot of you are foaming at the mouth to continue let’s talk about searches.

First, as many of you noticed, the war in Yemen is not being fought exclusively by Saudi Arabia. Other countries like the United Arab Emirates are involved and form a “coalition” sometimes referred to as the Saudi-led Coalition or the Saudi-UAE Coalition etc. As one of you pointed out this means that it could be the case that if you searched

“Saudi Arabia” in quotes and the article referred to the “Saudi-led Coalition” that it would not turn up that result. This is true for a lot of terms/their closely related cognates. So when doing research you will ALWAYS want to run multiple searches using different terms.

Say you were researching a “climate change” advantage, you would want to search

“climate change” anthropogenic extinction


looking for your dream impact card. But you would also want to search

“global warming” anthropogenic extinction

“climate change” anthropogenic armaggedon/apocalypse/end of civilization

“climate change” “human caused” extinction



I use google chrome, but I assume other browsers have a similar feature, where after you run some searches/click the links you will see on the results list that articles you have already read show up in purple rather than blue so when you run repeated searches it is easy to see what articles you have or have not already read.


So you will want to generate/keep a list of terms/synonyms you can run these multiple searches with, and on long research projects maybe even keep track of what ones you have /have not done.


For example whenever I do T research I start with some basic searches. Say I was doing “arms sales”, I would run the following

“the phrase arms sales”

“the term arms sales”

“arms sales means”

“arms sales refers to”

“classifying arms sales”

“arms sales are classified as”




Now, this won’t turn up EVERY definition- you will need to do broader searches as well. But these phrases turn up a lot of GOOD definitions that

-have intent to define

-are often debates about terminology/which definition you should pick and use

-when terms are defined in congress/in legislation they frequently use one of those phrases so its a good way to find US definitions


Those terms also don’t produce 10 million results, generally a handful or for a very popular term maybe a hundred or so. You can see the google result below the link and generally get a 99% accurate reading on whether its going to be a good card or not so you can skim through the results quickly.


You may have to run these searches at least twice -google and google scholar- and generally a 3rd time in a legal database like Lexis or Westlaw if its a term that could come up in US law(i.e. “qualified immunity” likely to come up, “foreign military sales”- less so).

So let us say that after reading those initial Saudi articles from the first post you decided that you had better look more into

-saudi politics

-US leadership/soft power

-the war in yemen/civilian casualties


as your 3 potential advantage areas. What you would want to do is brainstorm a list of terms relevant to each area, and then come up with some searches for those terms. Let’s use Saudi politics as our example. What kind of terms would you want to use?


-names- like Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), Jamal Khashoggi etc

Image result for Salman family tree Saudi Arabia


Then you would want to think about what kind of terms might someone use to describe some sort of political upheaval in Saudi Arabia like: coup, regime change, succession etc.


Then you start combining those terms and running your searches. While we started broad when we did our other searches on your follow ups you want to get smaller and smaller- you don’t want to be reading wikipedia pages anymore. Now that you know enough to make accurate/intelligent judgments about cards on the topic you want to find articles that will produce cards so use the terms you want. You can’t go bonkers- “saudi politics nuclear war outweighs climate change” but if you did run that search the worst thing that can happen is you see zero results and you try again. Like anything else this is a process you will get better at the more you practice so don’t be afraid to try it out.


Date Ranges

Some issues are more time sensitive than others. Conflict uniqueness- what is the state of the war in Yemen right now- for example you only need recent cards on. Does the conflict escalate/draw in major powers- it would be nice if those cards were from the last week but that is something you can get away with being a bit older. So depending on what you are looking for you want to use the date range to focus.


Remember, the way search engines like google generally work is they are returning results that seem most relevant- usually by some sort of “how many times do these words appear” metric (though the algorithms are hush hush) so if those words appeared A LOT MORE in articles from 2 years ago for some reason you will get a lot of old results. This is even, annoyingly, true on google “news” which is supposed to be recent info but will frequently spit out things from a year ago or more just to annoy me.


Some other uses of date range

-exclude articles you cut- if you run the saudi aff all year you will be doing the same searches over and over, so you can set the date range to try and exclude results you have likely read before

-to search for specific periods- in addition to doing “last year” you can set a specific range from 1/1/18-2/4/18 for example. So for example after Khashoggi’s murder a lot of articles were like “We should stop selling arms over this”- which may be true, but isn’t really a very good debate argument- so you can use the date range/limitation to search “around” events like that looking for more warranted arguments


Complete “sources”

In part 1 I talked about how CATO was a card manufacturing plant. So one thing I would do is when you find a source like that, go to their website and search for every article they have on your topic and read them all. Now, A LOT of this will be repetitive- Bandow for example will write basically the same article 4 or 5 times for different publications. Sometimes there will be minor tweaks that make one slightly better than another, but in general at this stage you should just skip articles that look too similar to what you already have. But since CATO is a group of like minded individuals in addition to Bandow you will see other authors there who also support your aff.


When you find new “CATO” authors, try a search in google of “their name” Saudi Arabia Yemen- theoretically all their articles published anywhere will be available/linked to CATO/other think tanks people work at but its not always the case and you want to be thorough. If someone writes 1 article with great cards that can sometimes be an aberration, but often it indicates their writing style is one well suited for debate.


So you want to find

-all articles from a good source

-all articles from a good author


And remember when you find a good author make sure you are clicking all their hyperlinks to see what they think good articles are.

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