Answered By: Priscilla Coulter Last Updated: Mar 07, 2017 Views: 10243
The words that you type into a search box are the key to finding the most relevant articles and books. That's why they're called keywords!
You'll need to choose keywords carefully. Here's how:
1. Write out a brief description (1 or 2 sentences) of your research topic. It can be helpful to phrase it in the form of a question that you'd like to answer.
2. Identify the most important 2 - 4 words from your research question. These are your key concepts.
- To decide which words are most important, imagine that you need to tell someone your topic using no more than 4 words. Words like "does," "the," "in," or "of" (while useful in a sentence) won't be specific enough, so you wouldn't use those.
3. For each key concept, make a list of other words with the same or related meanings. These will be your keywords!
- Use a thesaurus () to find synonyms.
- Think of specific examples or types.
- If your topic is something you don't know enough about yet, it can be hard to think of synonyms or examples. Find some background information to jump-start your brainstorming!
Look at an example:
1. Go to the library's homepage and find the big Articles & Databases search box.
2. Choose one keyword from each concept list. Type those keywords into the search box. Type AND between each one. Why?
Examples (from our list above):
- students AND online classes AND social networking AND learning
- college students AND online courses AND social media AND performance
- learners AND online courses AND Facebook AND grades
3. Click search and explore the results. Try several of your keyword combinations, and keep a list of the keywords that fetch the most relevant articles.
- If you get too many results, try more or narrower keywords.
- If you get too few results, try using fewer or broader keywords.
4. Look closely at the most relevant articles in your search results. If the authors are using new terms for your concepts, or if you see concepts that you want to explore further - then add them to your lists!
Example: click to view larger
5. Create new keyword combinations from your refined list of terms, and test them again!
- undergraduates AND online courses AND social networking
- student engagement AND higher education AND social networking
- learning communities AND online courses AND social networking
6. Save the most relevant articles as you test your keywords...chances are, you'll find much of what you need as you go!