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Shapiro Library

HIS 200 - Applied History

Research guidance and support for HIS-200 Applied History research assignments.

Choosing Keywords


The library's databases are best searched using keywords instead of long sentences or phrases. It is common to use full sentences or lengthy phrases while using a search engine like Google, but library databases don't work the same way. They have their own way of searching for information. Using keywords and boolean searching is the start of coming up with successful searching strategies.

Here are a few ways you can brainstorm keywords for your topic:

  • Identify the main concepts about your topic: For example, if your topic is the relationship between the Space Race and the Cold War, some initial keywords might be: Space Race, Cold War, United States, Russia, nuclear weapons, etc.
  • Think about related and more specific terms: Think about different ways to say the concepts you already identified. Continuing our example, some additional keywords might be: Soviet Union, Union of Soviet Socialist, Republics (USSR), satellites, espionage, nuclear disarmament, etc.

Feeling stuck? Try using a thesaurus This link opens in a new window to look up synonyms or use a brainstorming strategy like mind mapping This link opens in a new window to see how the concepts in your topic are related. 

Once you have your keywords identified, it's time to try some searches! You can combine the keywords in various ways to create different searches to use in the library's databases.