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Finding Keywords

Your search is only as good as your search terms!

Coming up with good search terms will also save you time.

Once you have nailed down a topic, it's time to find keywords to use in your searches for articles and other materials. Here are some tips for mining keywords from your background searches.

  • Check the subject terms describing the articles.
  • Mine keywords from the abstracts of the articles. Look especially for words that uniquely describe the topic.
  • Look at the bibliography or sources cited at the bottom of articles. Read for background information and look at the subject terms assigned to them.

For example, a CQ Researcher article on human trafficking contains info-graphics that are full of potential search terms, like modern slavery, forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded laborers, and many more.  Looking at the bibliography, the first source is a book on the shelf at Logue Library. The link to WorldCat shows descriptive terms and a table of contents list.  The book might be a good source itself or might be a good lead to other sources or search ideas.

Brainstorming Synonyms

keyword worksheet

Use a format like this to organize your thoughts into concepts and list synonyms for the concepts.

Check them off your list as you go.  If you find that you are repeatedly seeing the same search results, you might be inadvertently using the same search terms!

Click the screenshot for a printable version of the Keyword Worksheet/Search Tips

If you get stuck trying to find good synonyms for your concepts, try

  • Brainstorming with a friend
  • Asking a librarian (chat-in below)
  • Do some Googling
  • Check an encyclopedia/wikipedia
  • Use
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