Search databases using keywords, such as concepts or subject phrases, that are linked together by and, or, not used to identify articles and sources. Once you have identified your topic, selecting your keywords is pretty simple.
1. Divide your topic into concepts/segments/pieces.
In the question, “How do the experiences of first-gen students compare based on socioeconomic status or race, ethnicity, culture, background?” The concepts are: First-generation students, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, culture.
2. Brainstorm for synonyms and related terms.
You will need to translate these terms to keywords later when you are searching databases for articles and sources. Even if a combination of words works well in one database, you may have to change keywords to find results in another database.
|Related terms:||first-gen||household income||national origin|
|first in family||financial aid||historically under engaged|
3. Create your search by combining your keywords using and, or, not.
- And is used to narrow your search. Results returned will contain both sets of keywords.
- Or is used to expand your search. Results returned will return either keyword.
- Not will limit your search and will exclude a keyword from the results.
You can also use parentheses to combine your search strings:
(first generation OR first-gen) and (socioeconomic OR financial aid)
4. Follow the database-specific language.
As you do your searching, keep track of the words that appear in the detailed descriptions, or records, of your results list in the fields that will be labeled with headings such as subjects, descriptors, or subject headings. These synonyms and related terms are the specific vocabulary used to describe your search term in that database or discipline. Using these in your search can often improve your search results by making it more accurate and efficient/less time.