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Keywords & Searching

Keyword Brainstorming Tool

This keyword brainstorming tool will help you generate a good set of search terms.

Example Keywords

  1. Write down your topic (ex. female college students with eating disorders)
  2. Underline the main concepts (ex. Female college students with eating disorders
  3. For each main concept, brainstorm a few synonyms and related terms that get at that concept:
Key Concepts Female college students Eating disorders
Related Terms University women
Young adults

Putting Keywords Together

Boolean Operators

Once you have a good set of keywords, use Boolean operators (named for mathematician George Boole) to narrow, broaden, or refine your search.

Chart showing use of Boolean Operators: AND to combine terms for a narrower search, OR to broaden a search by finding records with either of 2 terms, NOT to refine a search by locating records with the first but not the second of 2 terms.

Try searching with different groupings and keyword combinations.

  • (college females OR young adults)  AND (eating disorders OR bulimia OR anorexia)
  • (children OR adolescents) AND violence AND (television NOT video games)

Truncation and Wildcards

Use an * at the end of a word to search for all forms of that word. 

  • educat* will return results for education, educator, educated, educating;etc.
  • environment* will also return results for environmentalism and environmentalist

An * can also be used to replace a character in a word.

  • wom*n will search for women and woman

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Generic License.