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Shapiro Library

old HIS 100 - Perspectives in History

Research guidance and example sources for HIS100 Perspectives in History research assignment.

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 to 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 environmental impact of the atomic bomb, some initial keywords might be: atomic bomb, World War II, environment, environmental impact
  • 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: Japan, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, fallout, radiation, soil contamination, water quality, 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.