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Most library databases and Internet search engines require the use of keywords, short words or phrases that represent topics you want to find in your results. By making yourself familiar with a few simple concepts, you can improve the quality of those results.
Think of the questions that you need to answer, then identify the most important words or concepts from your questions. Do not include articles, such as “a” or “an”, or prepositions, such as “with”, “in”, or “on”. For example, if you were researching drug testing of Olympic athletes your most important concepts might be:
Then think of synonyms for your words, other words that have the same meaning. For example:
By thinking of different words that can be used to describe your subject you will increase your chances of finding information.
All of these words are your keywords.
When you search the library catalog to find books on your topic, or when you search a database to find articles, search using different combinations of your keywords. For example, you might try the following combinations:
You can also use the words AND and OR to combine keywords in complex searches:
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Last updated or reviewed on 4/2/10