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Library Research Guides

SOC 100: Introduction to Sociology

A course guide for Soc 100, taught in Winter 2018 by Prof. Terence McGinn.

Search Tips: Keywords

What are your keywords?

Choosing keywords (search terms) is a very important part of conducting your literature search. You may need to experiment with multiple terms to find the ones that bring up the best results. This might be a related term like a synonym, or a variation of the word (e.g., singular vs. plural).

  • Don't enter a full research question into a library database. Instead, break your topic down into its component concepts.
    • Example: What roles does social media play in protest movements?
      • Concepts: social media, protest movements
  • For each concept, consider possible synonyms as well as broader or narrower terms.
    • Write down a list of terms to refer back to and help inform your searching. Add to and edit this list as your research progresses.
 

Concept 1

Social Media

Concept 2

Protest Movements

Synonyms and
related terms
(broader, narrower)

online social networks
Facebook
Twitter

protest
activism
social movements
political participation

How do I use my keywords to create a search?

  • In library databases, use the Advanced Search form and put each concept on its own line
  • Try different keywords and combinations of keywords
    • Combine synonyms together to expand your search and retrieve the maximum number of articles on your topic
      • Use OR to combine like terms
      • Use AND between each separate concept

screenshot of Sociological Abstracts advanced search page

 

Pro Tip!

  • If you find one article you like, use that article's bibliography to identify other possible sources.