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Research 101: Keywords

Information on the research process.

Generating Keywords

Keywords are words or phrases that describe your research topic. They are used to search for information in library databases. When searching for information, you want to employ a variety of search terms because there are multiple ways of describing the same topic.

Start with a question that summarizes and focuses your research topic and identify key concepts associated with the question. Then, generate a list of synonomys and related terms. 

Example: "How does funding from Political Action Committees affect the election process?"

Idenfity synonyms for key concepts.

funding             Political Action Committees      election process  
financing PAC's elections
fund raising donors campaigns
support contributors races
  corporations results


Identify related concepts: political parties, voters, candidates, special interests, politics, state & federal laws, democracy

Search Engines vs. Library Databases

Searching electronic library resources is different than using a search engine like Google.  If you enter a question or phrase in a search engine you may retrieve the information you need. This strategy is less likely to work with the library's catalog or databases. For these electronic resources you'll want to enter more precise searches.

How Should I Search in a Database?

NEIU Library (1:28)

Phrase Searching

If you enter a search such as political action committee without any Boolean operators some databases will search for the terms separately and some will search for the phrase. To guarantee you are searching for the phrase--the words together in the specified order--use quotation marks.

"political action committee"

Tips & Tricks Phrase Searching

NCSU Libraries (1:00)

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