1. What are the main concepts of your topic and what keywords might you use when searching?
Example topic: Does playing violent video games lead to violent behavior in adolescents? Key concepts are in bold.
Other possible keywords: Media violence, aggression, popular culture, teenagers or youth, psychological aspects, social aspects.
Modify your search strategy after you begin searching. Use the power of the databases (limiters, suggested subjects, and more) to further develop your search. Use broader concepts when searching the online catalog for books.
2. Determine what information you need. Follow your instructor's syllabus carefully. Ask yourself the following questions:
3. Get background information on your topic. Use our online reference databases, listed on the left, to gather information on the broader context of your topic. This preliminary research will also help identify more keywords for searching.
TIP: Start early! You can try using the Search Planning Worksheet below from Middlesex Community College, and this Assignment Calendar from the University of Minnesota.
Keywords are the main ideas or concepts of your topic question. Keep a list of these words because you will use them when searching for information on your topic. You will also want to come up with related terms in order to expand your searching.
Example topic question: Does playing violent video games lead to violent behavior in adolescents?
When searching, string your keywords together with “and” rather than entering the entire research question. Mix and match terms depending on results.
Example: media violence and social aspects and adolescents
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.
Keyword searching is available in almost all databases. Many databases require you to explicitly describe the relationship between keywords using special connectors ( words like "and" "or" and "not") to associate your keywords in various relationships.
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.
hydrogen fuel cells
You may need to do some background reading in reference sources before coming up with some of the terms you see above.
Here is a link to a video from Kent State University Library about searching databases using keywords.
The following Web sites can help you identify keywords for your research topic:
Use reference books or search the references databases for encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, and more. Great for background material! If you read articles from encyclopedis before you read scholarly journal articles, you will have a better chance of understanding the specialized vocabulary that is often used. Start with this kind of background information also helps you:
Once you have decided on a topic, you need to think about the best sources to get your information. Answering the questions below will help you decide what kind of strategy you need.
Do you need books?
If you answered yes to many of these questions, you need books.
Do you need magazine or journal articles?
If you answered yes to many of these questions, you need magazine and journal articles, to be found in databases such as Academic Search Premier and MasterFile Premier.
Do you need newspaper articles?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, you need newspaper articles.
Try one or more of these reference tools for:
Some reference databases you might use include: