ENGL 127 Research Writing: Social Sciences (Schaefer)

This research guide is for students in Amanda Schaefer's English 127: Focus on Family & Home

Strategies: Identify Keywords and Use Keywords Effectively in Databases (and online)

Step 1: Identify Keywords

Use KEYWORDS that capture different aspects of your topic as SEARCH TERMS to find relevant sources. 

For example, if I want to learn about home ownership and the American Dream, I could search "home ownership" AND "American Dream"

Here are a few tips about using keywords:

  • Put phrases in quotes. Ex: "gender roles"

  • Use AND to connect key words and focus a topic. Ex: "gender roles" AND parenting

  • Use OR to capture synonyms or related terms. Ex: ("housing" OR "homes")

  • Use * (asterisk- shift 8) to truncate your keyword and search for forms of the word. Ex: hous* = houses or housing

  • Keep track of useful keywords you come across as you research! They represent ideas and they might be useful search terms.

  • Tip: Look for suggested keywords at the ends of reference articles, in the "Related Terms," "Cross-References" and "See Also" sections. 


Step 2: Use Keywords Effectively in Library Databases

Source: "Searching Databases with Keywords" by lehmanlibrary , is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Video: How to Use Keywords to Form a Research Strategy

Source: "From topic to search results in two minutes! " by Holman Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Learn about strategizing keywords and how databases work when searching keywords.

More research help

Find more online research help in our How Do I guides.