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Searching tips & tricks: Home

Keyword Searching

Most information searches start with keywords.

Keywords allow you to search with natural language, describing a topic in words that you would actually use.

When choosing keywords you should choose words that are most likely to appear in an article or book that relates to your topic. Avoid words that are too common and likely to appear in multiple topics.

Choosing Keywords

Having trouble choosing keywords for your topic? Try writing out a topic statement. Once you have your statement, pull out the most important words. (Hint: look at the nouns.)


  • Topic Statement: The effect of rising gas prices on the economy of the united states.
  • Keywords: Gas prices, economy, united states


Synonyms are other words that have the same meaning as your keywords. Think of words that may be used interchangeably.  You may want to add some of these to your keyword list, including alternate spellings or forms of your keywords.


  • Gas, gasoline, fuel, fossil fuels
  • United States, America, USA
  • Prices, cost, expense
  • economy, finances, economic, fiscal, inflation

Phrase Searching

When you are using a term that is made up of more than one word, it may be necessary to enter the term as a phrase.  The most common way of doing this is to surround the term with quotation marks


  • "fossil fuel"

This tells the catalog, database, or search engine that you are only interested in resources where these words appear together and in the correct order.  This can also be helpful if you are looking for an exact title or a personal name

Research Guide

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