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Eng / Span 100 (Hakala): Topics and Terms

Controlled Vocabulary

Databases use controlled vocabulary to index or tag articles and books. Successful searching is dependent on discovering what those words (terms) are.

Some databases have tools to help you find the controlled vocabulary terms. These terms usually include definitions.  For example -->

Search Terms

Take your topic and look for key concepts.  Take those concepts and brainstorm related terms.

1) Identify a question or topic

2) Look for key concepts

(see below)

What is the significance of male protagonists who are presented as social outcasts in young adult fiction?

male OR man OR boy

social outcasts OR misfits OR nerds

young adult fiction OR YA OR teen

Search Strategies

Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks to search for a phrase

  • "technical vocabulary"
  • "coming of age"


Use a symbol (* is the most common) to look for variant endings of a word

  • educat* will search for educate, educates, education, educational, educators, etc.
  • skeptic* finds skeptic, skeptical, skepticism, etc.
  • politic* will search for politic, politics, political, etc.

Search Credo Reference

Search Credo Reference to find general oveviews of a variety of topics from many reference sources.