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Searching for Articles & Using Databases


Tracking Keywords

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Make a list or use the chart below to track keywords related to your topic.

Keep it by your side when you start your research. 

Are you finding too much or not enough information?

Try using boolean operators and truncation symbols, or use alternative, narrower, or broader keywords to vary your results. Check out the next pages to learn how!


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


Keywords are the words that you use when searching for information, whether in a library database or searching in Google.

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 it to a halt.

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

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  • Your research questions

  • Articles found from background research

  • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles

  • And yes, Wikipedia

Be sure to keep a piece of paper and a pen handy, so you can try searching for any new keywords you discover!

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