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Throwing an entire sentence into a search bar will often give you a lot of irrelevant results that are a waste of time to look through. The key to quicker, more accurate searching in a library database is the search words you use.
List the best 2-4 words from your research topic or question. These words should be nouns.
Possible search words for this topic are:
Sometimes researchers use different words to describe the same topic. To get the best search results, you need to use the words that the researchers do:
Using the same example topic as above and searching in the database Academic Search Complete using one word at a time, additional search words can be found.
|Original search word||Additional Search words|
|individuals||The word "individuals" wasn't descriptive enough and produced too many irrelevant results. This is not a good search word and should not be used.|
|community||The word "community" produced too many irrelevant results. The phrase "community health" also produced the wrong type of research. It may be best to use various combinations of the "bicycle commuting" and "health" words and just look for individual or community health outcomes, rather than search specifically for "individuals" or "community."|
Even after your initial searching, you may find another good search word later on. Add it to your list!
Print and use the worksheet below to help you identify search words from your topic and additional, related words you could use while searching.