Selecting Search Terms

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Read this tutorial and answer the questions on each screen.  There is a link to a printable worksheet that will help you focus your topic on the last screen.
 
Libraries have many tools to locate information. The most frequently used tools are databases like Academic Search Premier, MLA Bibliography, or Factiva.  They allow us to efficiently store and retrieve information about books, periodical articles, statistics, etc. Before you begin searching for information in a database, you will need to select search terms (also known as keywords) that best describe your topic. The following steps will help you create a list of search terms.
  1. Using your topic statement as a guide, write down a list of words and phrases that describe or relate to your topic. Use the list of comments and questions that you started in "Defining & Focusing Your Topic" as a starting point.
  2. If you are looking for information from a particular time period, write down the dates that are relevant to your information search.
  3. If appropriate, write down other information that might help to focus your search, such as a particular geographic location or the title of a particular magazine or journal you think might be of use. These pieces of information that help to focus a search are often referred to as limiters. Remember, you may miss out on information if you begin your search with too narrow a focus.

Sometimes important words will not be part of your topic statement or question. When you select search terms, remember to use synonyms and antonyms, different forms of a word (pregnancy, pregnant), and related words and terms (books, reading).

Click here for a printable worksheet that will help you create a focus for your topic

 

Tip

Use a thesaurus and/or a dictionary of synonyms and antonyms to find alternate search terms.  

 
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