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Writing 117 (Silbaugh): Keywords & Search Terms

Writing for Social Sciences and Humanities

Key Word Chart

Search Credo Reference

Search reference books for general info about a topic.

Tips for Finding Keywords & Search Terms

  • Use a visual thesaurus like Snappy Words, Visuwords, or GraphWords
  • Use references sources like Credo Reference to get background information and key words. (See widget above)
  • Most EBSCO databases have a tool to help you discover subject terms. See EBSCO Academic Search Complete > Subject Terms
  • When you find a useful article, look at the database Subject Headings and record them as possible search terms. (Example)

Search Strategies

Determine the key ideas and terms in your topic. Example: I am interested in the marketing psychology aimed at teenagers .
Think of synonyms or related terms. "marketing psychology" / "consumer psychology" / "advertising psychology"
teenagers / teens / adolescents / young adults
Select useful resources to search. Databases > Subject > Psychology (other subject areas may include Business & Economics)
Construct a search strategy.  Start with keyword searching. Many databases default to a keyword search field.
Look for a phrase, using quotation marks. "marketing psychology" / "consumer psychology" / "advertising psychology"
Join similar terms with OR "marketing psychology" OR "consumer psychology" OR "advertising psychology"
Join dissimilar terms with AND

("marketing psychology" OR "consumer psychology" OR "advertising psychology") AND (teenagers OR adolescents)

Truncate a term (usually *) teen* (to search for teen, teens, teenagers)


Additional Strategies:

  • Look for other terms and phrases to describe your topic from the literature you find.
  • Depending on what you initially find, consider broadening or narrowing your topic.
  • Take advantage of "controlled vocabulary" e.g. descriptors, subject terms when they are available.
  • Some databases have "See related materials" links.
  • Limit your search if needed e.g. by date, by format, the field being search.
  • Examine the bibliographies for relevant materials.
  • Sort results by relevance if this is not the default.  e.g. In some databases the default is by most recent date.
  • Find a great article?  See who else has cited it