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BME 333T - Engineering Communication

Use Keywords

Keywords: Best Practices

Consider your topic and list important and related terms and synonyms to use as keywords when searching the library's databases. 

Think of the scientific or technical term for common or controversial words, for example:

  • hydraulic fracturing | fracking
  • unmanned aircraft | drones 
  • vehicles or automobiles | cars

A good place to look for related terms is in the article record within the library databases, for example:

Try to avoid generic words like pros and cons or advantages and disadvantages.  While these terms may work in Google, they are typically not helpful when using our library databases.  

  • ​If you need articles related to GMOs and their benefit to society consider using terms like “agricultural productivity” or hunger (as in the reduction of hunger)
  • If you are lacking information on the harmful aspects, try adding terms like health risks" or environmental

Spell out acronyms, especially if they have common alternative meanings

  • Search "near field communications" rather than NFC (e.g. National Football Conference; National Finance Center)
  • NOTE: Some acronyms are very established in the literature (e.g. RFID is more commonly used than radio frequency identification)
  • When in doubt, search using both terms

Add additional terms to refine your results

  • e.g. fracking AND wastewater

Combine terms using AND and OR 

  • AND narrows your search by looking for articles with all of the words
  • OR broadens your search by looking for articles with any of the words

Example Search

screen shot of boolean search


Search Term Hits
gmo  3,083
"genetically modified organisms" 2,502
(gmo OR "genetically modified organisms") 4,380

(gmo OR "genetically modified organisms") AND hunger

(gmo OR "genetically modified organisms") AND (hunger OR famine)                                 40
(gmo OR "genetically modified organisms") AND (hunger OR famine OR drought)   96


Brainstorm Keywords

Try out the Generate Keywords tool. It's designed to help you think about the essential parts of your topic, identify additional terms, and construct a search strategy. From an output like this--

... you get a database-ready search strategy like this:

(genetically modified organism OR genetically modified foods OR genetically engineered plants OR transgenic organisms OR synthetic biology OR bioengineered food)


(benefits OR agricultural productivity OR sustainability OR climate change OR food security OR hunger) 


(risks OR health risks OR environmental aspects OR side effects OR contaminates OR regulation)

SEARCH TIP! Search each line separately, to reveal whether you should revise your search terms for a subtopic of your research question. Then use a database's search history feature to combine searches. 

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