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Getting Started with Research at Shapiro Library

This guide discusses understanding information sources, formulating a topic and search phrase, where and how to search the library for information, how to evaluate sources, how to cite sources, and more.

Choosing Keywords for your Topic

What are Keywords?

A keyword is a word or phrase that is relevant to your topic. With a keyword search, you can search all parts of a source for the words you enter in the search box. This type of searching uses "natural language" and is one you're probably already familiar with--you simply enter words or phrases into a search box that you think are relevant to your topic.

The library has several books and ebooks in our collection which can help answer your questions about using keywords. Check out the books and web resources below for additional information.

Helpful Books from the Library:

The Oxford Guide to Library Research Book Cover

The Oxford Guide to Library Research by Thomas Mann
Call Number: REF Z710 .M23 2005
ISBN: 9780195189971
Publication Date: 2005-11-01

The Creative Guide to Research Book Cover

The Creative Guide to Research by Robin Rowland
Call Number: [electronic resource]
ISBN: 9781564144423
Publication Date: 2000-07-01

To find more books and ebooks on using keywords, please search the Online Library Catalog.

These web resources may be helpful if you need help with using keywords. However, be sure to evaluate any sources you use--the Shapiro Library cannot vouch for the accuracy of information provided on external websites.

Still Need Help? Ask a Librarian!

Choosing Keywords

When choosing keywords for your topic, you'll want to consider the major concepts addressed by your research question(s) and come up with a list of synonyms or related terms. For example:

If your research question is: What is the connection between smoking and depression among teenagers?

Major concepts for this topic might include:

  • smoking
  • depression
  • teenagers

Synonyms or related terms might include:

  • smoking OR tobacco OR cigarettes
  • depression OR mental health OR mood
  • teenagers OR teens OR adolescents

When doing a keyword search it's a good idea to try a number of different search terms and phrases. Don't be discouraged if your initial keyword search brings back too many, too few, or irrelevant results--you'll want to try multiple keywords, synonyms for your keywords, different combinations of keywords, etc. to bring back the best results. Check these videos for more help choosing and using keywords:

Selecting the Right Number of Keywords. from Kimbel Library on Vimeo.

Still Need Help? Ask a Librarian!

Tips for Using Keyword Searching Effectively

When doing a keyword search it's a good idea to try a number of different search terms and phrases. Don't be discouraged if your initial keyword search brings back too many, too few, or irrelevant results--you'll want to try multiple keywords, synonyms for your keywords, different combinations of keywords, etc. to bring back the best results.

As with any search strategy, you may want to consider what keyword searching is most useful for and anything you should be cautious about when using this searching technique:

Most Useful For:
  • Finding resources using "natural language" that describes your topic
  • Very flexible--can easily be combined with other searching techniques
Cautions:
  • May bring back too many, too few, or irrelevant results if keywords are not carefully selected
  • Users should try multiple keywords, combinations of keywords, etc. to bring back the best results

For example, if you are looking for information about the dangers of texting and driving you may start out with keywords like: texting, driving, distracted driving, danger, cellphones, etc.

But you'll also want to try using synonyms for keywords (e.g. cellphonesmobile phonessmartphones, iphone, etc.) and combining keywords (e.g. texting and driving, distracted driving and danger, etc.) to get better, more thorough results.

Choosing Keywords Flowchart

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