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ENG 101 - English Composition 1

Find Sources

Search the new HELM Catalog to find books and other materials available from the STCC Library and other community college libraries.

*For more information on searching the catalog click here.

  • Statewide Database Access - use this link if you don't have an STCC RamCard/barcode. If you are a resident of Massachusetts, you can search a number of statewide license databases simultaneously. 

Keyword Searching

Keyword Search

When searching in databases, you generally cannot search effectively by typing in a question or sentence, but rather it is most effective to search using essential concepts, or "keywords".

Keywords are the words that describe your topic of research. These can be individual words or a phrase. These keywords can be chosen from the sentence you create to define your research topic. Once you choose the significant words, you can then come up with synonyms, or words with similar meanings. All of these can be keywords to use in forming your search.


You've chosen the topic "alternative fuels" for a research paper. To help you focus this rather broad topic, you put it into the form of a question or sentence:

What are the types of alternative fuels being used or developed for automobiles?

Usually, the nouns and adjectives in your sentence or question will give you a good idea of what your keywords will be. In this case, the phrase "alternative fuels" and "automobiles" are the significant keywords.

From these keywords make a list of synonyms to use as alternatives. Since different writers will describe the same thing using different words, it's good to arm yourself with a variety of keywords so you don't miss important information.

alternative fuels automobiles
natural gas
hydrogen fuel cells
motor vehicle


Here is a link to a video from Kent State University Library about searching databases using keywords.

Here is another Web site to help you identify keywords for your research topic: