Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Coming up with Search Terms
Think about your research topic.
- What do you know about this topic?
- What do you need to know or what would you like to know more about in this topic?
Pull search terms from these basic questions.
Remember to think of synonyms or other ways of phrasing a problem. If you get stuck searching for resources, expanding the way you think about your topic can really help.
Basic keyword searches are a fine place to start.
words expressing your concept
sure you express all concepts related to your interest within each search
synonyms for each concept
terms with more than one word in quotes (ex. “native american”)
symbols (usually * or $) help search words with multiple endings
(singular, plural, etc… Such as
pollut* = pollution, pollute, polluted, polluting.)
keep a list of useful keywords and search terms to use in successive
searches and other databases.
How to Find Specific
Kinds of Articles:
No method of searching for specific kinds of articles is
fool-proof. These tips, however, will be
of great use:
- For finding literature reviews: Entering search terms such as literature
review, overview, systematic review, or overview of the literature, all
help to identify articles that are literature reviews.
- For finding empirical articles: Entering
keywords such as “study” or “survey” help to retrieve an article that’s
empirical, or evidence-based. Words
such as “methods” or “methodology” (qualitative or quantitative),
participants, and “results” or “findings”, also help to identify an
empirical article. Review the
article’s abstract as well as the title when seeking these words.
- For finding primary research: Using previous studies found in
review articles is one way of locating primary research articles for one’s
own literature review. NOTE: Also find new primary research on your
topic in order to update the scholarly research in the field.
from your search results:
to see if keywords are provided within article title pages that might
inform your successive searches.
leading journals and search the recent issues for the latest information
in your area of interest; use references from those articles to gather
literature reviews, empirical articles, and primary research sources.
you start seeing a specific author’s name popping up frequently, you’ve
found an expert; make sure you include the work of experts in your field
to ensure that your literature review is scholarly and timely!
Check the subject headings within specific articles to
refine successive searches for more focused results
Many databases give you the option of checking a box if you
wish to retrieve only scholarly / peer-reviewed articles. I suggest that you absolutely do this, AFTER
you’ve done an initial search to cull all potential useful keywords and subject
headings from all the articles in the system, peer-reviewed or not.