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Keyword Searching Tips and Tricks

This guide will help you learn to select effective Keywords and demonstrate Boolean connectors and tips to make searching faster and easier

Keyword Searching

Most information searches start with keywords.

Keywords allow you to search with natural language, describing a topic in words that you would actually use.

When choosing keywords you should choose words that are most likely to appear in an article of book that would relate to your topic. 

You should avoid words that are too common (likely to pull up too many different subjects) or too specific (not used often enough to match many results).

Choosing Keywords

If you are having trouble choosing keywords for your topic, it can help to write out a topic statement. Once you have your statement, pull out the most important words.  Hint* look at the nouns.

For example:

Topic Statement: The effect of rising gas prices on the economy of the United States.

Keywords: gas prices, economy, United States


Synonyms are other words that have the same meaning as your keywords; think of words or terms that may be used interchangeably. You may want to add some of these terms to your keyword list. Include alternate spellings or forms of your keywords. What other words or terms are related?


Gas, gasoline, fuel, fossil fuels,

United States, America, USA

Prices, cost, expense

economy, finances, economic, fiscal, inflation


Phrase Searching

When you are using a term that is made up of more than one word, it may be necessary to enter the term as a phrase. The most common way of doing this is to surround the term with quotation marks. For example: "fossil fuel." This tells the catalog, database, or search engine that you are only interested in articles where these words appear together and in the correct order. This can also be helpful if you are looking for an exact title or a personal name.