Look at books, reviews, encyclopedias and handbooks to get background information.
Check out faculty or researchers whose names you know and see what they are doing in databases and web sites.
Start with a keyword search, then refine by subject or other facets later.
Building a search query:
Create a search set of synonyms (use "OR" operator) for a concept
Combine search sets for concepts with "AND" operator
use quote marks " " to identify a phrase
Use truncation and wild cards to expand based on a word stem (e.g., nano* )
Narrow your results:
Examine search result record to see what subjects have been assigned (if any) to the record. Subjects can be combined with keywords to focus search, or searched individually to find items that are primarily about the topic.
Use refine or limit features such as date, material type (e.g., review article), treatment (in Compendex - theoretical, applied, etc).
Expand to related articles with shared citations (Scopus)
Use citation searching and browsing features, including sorting by # of times cited (Scopus, SciFinder, Google Scholar, etc)