PART II: Using Search Tools to Find Articles - p. 1 of 5


Constructing a Keyword Search


If you’ve ever searched Google for something, you’ve probably gotten used to typing a bunch of words in a keyword box and getting results. In the library’s databases, that kind of search won’t work the same way.


One of the best approaches to building a successful keyword search is to keep it simple: use single words or simple phrases and split those keywords into separate search boxes.


In other words, take a look at your topic and try to identify the 2-4 most important concepts, the ones that really define the issue. Here are some examples.


Example 1


Topic: Eating too much fast food is making Americans obese.


Most important concepts:


  1. fast food
  2. obesity
  3. United States


Example 2


Topic: Children suffering from dyslexia are not receiving the best available treatment.


Most important concepts:


  1. children
  2. dyslexia
  3. treatment


Once you have selected the most important concepts, you can enter them into a search tool. Many databases will give you multiple search boxes. These boxes are designed to help you construct a better search. Put one concept in each box. For instance, instead of searching:



Try this:



Not every database automatically gives you multiple keyword boxes to search. Some give a single box. In that case, go ahead and enter your terms together, something like this:



Even though you are putting them all in one box, make sure you are still using just the most important, simple keywords or phrases.


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