Answered By: Priscilla Coulter Last Updated: Apr 28, 2017 Views: 12629
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. You may see new author-supplied keywords or database subject headings that describe your topic. Add those terms to your list!
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!