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ENG 198: Saxton

Identifying Keywords

Keywords are the terms that you type into the search box in a library database.  They are the essential terms for your idea, the most important words describing your topic. 

Before you can begin searching for information in a resource, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. 

Key terminology can be be found by scanning:

  • Your initial research questions
  • In-class readings
  • Background research articles from encyclopedias, news articles, popular magazines, etc.
  • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles
  • Specialized vocabulary or terms authors in the field of study are using

Think of related, broader, and narrower terms connected to each of the key concepts.

Use subject terms assigned to works in library catalogs or research databases.

TIP: Make a list or use a chart to keep track of keywords related to your topic; this is sometimes known as a "word bank." Keep it by your side when you start your research. Make note of which keywords return the most relevant results. It's a dynamic process and you may have to experiment with several synonyms.

Building Search Strings

Below are common search techniques that you can apply when searching in the library catalog, databases, and search engines to quickly find more relevant sources to use in your research:

Boolean operators and search modifiers chart

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