You have decided on what you want to research. Now you need to consider how to best search your topic.
A keyword search focuses your topic and matches the terms you enter with records in a research database. More accurate keywords will get you more accurate results.
Turn your Topic into Keywords
Look at your research question or think about the main concepts of your topic and pick out the nouns.
- Avoid words like impact, effect, improve etc.
- Spell out any abbreviations.
- Use quotations for an exact phrase match.
- Use parentheses to keep multi-word terms and phrases together.
- Don’t use full sentences or citations.
- Avoid punctuation like commas, periods or question marks.
Research question: How can carbon sequestration mitigate climate change?
No matter how complicated the question, selecting your keywords doesn’t need to be daunting. Just as in the above example, identify the key concepts.
Research Question: In adults who are comatose after resuscitation from either in-hospital or out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, does temperature control at 32-36 °C or early cooling after cardiac arrest lead to a higher chance of survival?
The PICO Clinical Question format can help you identify keywords.
Brainstorm synonyms for the key terms you identified to make sure you are getting all relevent results. Consider terms which are broader or narrower and ideas related to your topic. Most databases provide a thesaurus for this purpose. Look for thesaurus, subject terms, or subject headings on the search page.
Advanced search gives you more control over your results by allowing you to combine keywords and apply limiters such as a date range, format, language and more. Use advanced search if your keyword searches are returning too many results or results that are not all relevant.
Combine your keywords with AND, OR, or NOT and select specific fields like title or author to search.
- AND will limit your results, giving you only results which match both terms you enter.
- OR will expand your results, giving you results that match either of the terms you enter.
- NOT will exclude a term from your results.
Questions & Help
If you have questions on this, or another, topic, contact a librarian for help!
Make an appointment, walk in, or contact us for a research consultation – a research and teaching librarian can walk you through the process of creating a search strategy and finding the results you need.