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Basic Search Techniques

Get started with your research for class projects and research papers.

Picking Your Search Terms

Keywords -- or search terms -- are the words you use to search in the library's databases. OneSearch and the library's databases will search for all the words you type into a search box. Instead of searching for a whole sentence or question, you need to break your topic down into keywords. You can mix and match different keywords to find different articles when you search.

Watch this video for more information:

Keyword Example

  • After identifying a topic and developing a research question, break it down into 2-4 words or short phrases 
    • For example, if your research question is, "How does a remote work policy affect employee productivity in an organization?" you might choose remote work and productivity as your keywords
    • Those two terms effectively sum up the big idea of the research question and give a clear sense of what you're hoping to find
  • Using fewer, more focused search terms gives you a better chance of finding what you need rather than if you typed in the whole question

Use Subject Terms

  • You will often see a list of Subjects under articles on the results page
  • Subjects act like tags, allowing the database to organize articles by general topics. By searching with those words -- possibly synonyms to your original keywords -- you'll have a better chance of finding relevant sources.
    • For example, in the image below, the database lists "Telecommuting" as a subject term. You might consider substituting it for the original search term, "remote work," to expand your results.
  • Keep in mind, each database may list different Subject terms.
    • For example, one database might refer to remote work as "Telecommuting" while another might use "Work at home"
    • Pay attention to these differences and use them to your advantage