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PHL 230 - Religions of the World

This guide will provide links to library resources, services, and databases that support COCE students' research for this course.

Choosing Keywords

The library's databases are best searched using keywords rather than long sentences or phrases. It is common to use full sentences or lengthy phrases while using a search engine like Google. It is important to note that library databases are not Google; they have their own way of searching for information. Using keywords and boolean searching is the start to coming up with successful searching strategies.

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

The Religion: If you are a researching a particular religion, use the religion's name and the names of key people within that religion as keywords.

Identify main concepts about your religion, both specifically and generally, including specific beliefs and existential questions. For example, if you are researching Buddhism and the afterlife, some concepts and keywords might be: afterlife, rebirth, reincarnation, samsara, nirvana, etc.

Feeling stuck? Try using a thesaurus to look up synonyms, or use a brainstorming strategy like mind mapping 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. Here are some tips to help you combine your keywords and create effective searches.


Keyword Search Tips

Use Boolean Operators such as AND, OR, and NOT. The AND tells the search engine to only bring back results that use both search terms: cats AND dogs. The OR tells the search engine to bring back results that have either search term: cats OR dogs. The NOT will exclude the word or phrase that follows it: cats NOT dogs. Using parentheses can also help, like this: cats AND (dogs OR birds).

Use quotation marks around any important phrases, like a person's name. For example, the founder of Buddhism was Gautama Buddha. Search for the phrase like this: "Gautama Buddha" so that the search engine will look for the two words next to each other in that exact order, rather than the two individual words separately in the article.

Use an asterisk (*) as a wildcard. The asterisk tells the search engine to find any variation of the word that starts with the same root. For example, if one of your keywords is biology, search for it like this: biolog*. The search engine will look for the words biology, biologic, biological, etc.

Using the keywords that were brainstormed above, here are some examples of what a good search strategy would look like:

  • Buddhism AND afterlife
  • Buddhism AND (samsara OR nirvana)
  • Buddhism AND "Gautama Buddha" AND reincarnat*

Any of these search strategies would be good to try in a library database. In the next few sections of the guide, we will look at some specific databases you can use for your research.