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Searching for Articles: 2. Keywords

Sources of Background Information

Background information can be found in: 

  • textbooks
  • dictionaries
  • lexicons
  • general encyclopedias
  • subject-specific encyclopedias  
  • article databases

Keyword vs. Natural Language

Search engines like Google have made it very easy for us to type in full queries in natural language and get answers.  Unfortunately, databases don't work the same way.  With a database, you want to use keywords only to create a search. 


Google="What is the impact of binge drinking on college campuses?"

Database= Impact AND binge drinking AND college

Identifying Keywords

The keywords you use can have a profound impact on the results of your research. Using the “right” words will speed up the research process, while the “wrong” words can bring to it to a halt.

Before you can begin searching for information, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be easily be found by scanning: Wordle: research ??s

  • Your research questions
  • Articles found from background research
  • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles

If you are still struggling:

  • Use a thesaurus to identify synonyms.
  • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe them.
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend.

Finding Keywords Tutorial

The first two minutes of this video will help with coming up with keyword terms.

Transcript here

Credit: JWU Denver Campus Library