Choosing Keywords

Unlike internet search engines, where you can use questions and long phrases to get decent search results, when dealing with library resources, you will want to search with keywords.  Keywords are the terms you use to search databases and the library catalog.  You need to choose the words that best express the concepts in your research question/topic.  You will generally want to use two to four keywords for a search.  When choosing keywords, think of synonyms of your original words that might be used as well in your search.  This allows for a broader range of results that may be relevant to your topic.

For example, if your topic was "What are the pressing issues in prison reform?" you would probably choose prison and reform as your initial key words.  Synonyms and other relevant words might include corrections, incarceration, criminal justice, jails, inmates, violent offenders, or detention. 

Check out the video below to learn more about choosing keywords.