HIST/AAAS374 China in the 20th Century

Understanding Keywords

Search databases using keywords, such as concepts or subject phrases, that are linked together by and, or, not  used to 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, "What is the relationship between women's fashion magazines and anorexia?," the concepts are: women, fashion magazines, and anorexia. 

     
  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. 

Concepts:

women

fashion magazines

anorexia

Related terms:

woman

fashion models

bulimia

 

female

modeling industry

eating disorders


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:

                     (woman or female) and (fashion magazines or modeling)
 

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.