Keywords are search terms that capture what you want to learn about.
Start with your topic. Identify just the key words. Sometimes that's easy and sometimes it's more difficult.
- Ex: Topic is orchids OR bromeliads
- Keywords: Orchids OR Bromeliads
- Ex: Topic is Environmental effects of using biomass (plants) for fuel
- Keywords might be biomass AND fuel AND environment*
- Ex: Topic is Why plant biodiversity matters
- Keywords: plant AND biodiversity
- Add to your keyword list as you read and learn about your topic, especially in background sources like academic encyclopedias (reference). Pay attention to the ideas and terminology in those articles!
- Keep your search words simple. Long natural phrases do not work as well.
- Try a range of search terms! Some terms work better than others and different keywords will find you different articles.
- In library research databases:
- Search for synonyms or alternatives terms with OR. Ex: orchids OR bromeliads
- Connect and focus keywords with AND. Ex: plant AND biodiversity
- Put phrases in quotes. Ex: "urban farm*"
- Truncate, aka, use the root of a word with * (shift 8) to search multiple forms of the word. Ex: farm* = farm or farming or farmer
- Ask a librarian if you need help!