Improving your keywords

Uploaded by BrockLibrary on 23.12.2010

Welcome to Brock Library’s Research Help on Demand series.
This video looks at ways you can improve your keywords when you search for journal articles.
If you’ve ever encountered difficulty with a database, such as getting no results or
very little results or results that aren’t relevant to your topic, you can improve your
results by developing a keyword search strategy. First, write a clear topic statement. If your
professor has given a long paragraph, try to summarize it in one sentence. For example,
a professor in Sociology provides an essay assignment: “Analyze and discuss the following
statement: Depictions of war in home media has a negative effect on teenage social behaviour.
Choose a type of media to discuss in detail.” Summarize the paragraph in a concise sentence
such as “War themed video games have a negative effect on teenage behaviour.”
Second, select two to three key concepts, avoid terms like advantages and effects. For
example, “war,” “video games” and “teenage” or “teenagers” could be
possible terms. Third, using a thesaurus or by brainstorming,
think of synonyms or alternative spellings for each search term. For example, combat
could mean war, computer games could mean video games and adolescent refers to teenagers.
Often, a quick Google search will get you to some free online thesauri. A thesaurus
or thesauri is a type of dictionary with synonyms for words. Synonyms are words with the same
or nearly the same meaning as another word. As you can see in this example, teenagers
can mean adolescent or youth. Fourth, select the appropriate search tool.
For example, for the topic on behaviour, a database that focuses on psychology will generate
more articles, such as PSYCinfo. Here are a few extra tips for improving your
keywords. If you are in a database and you have tried entering different search terms,
try finding an article as close to your topic as possible. Look at the article’s subject
terms or descriptors. It should give you some ideas for new search terms. For example, instead
of using teenagers and videogames, I can try computer games and adolescent.
Consider using both the American and Canadian spelling for certain terms to expand your
search. For example, you can spell behaviour without a “u” for the American form.
Another useful tip is to read the article summary. Often the journal article title may
seem off topic but in fact, the content is very relevant. For example, in the article
“Video games and real life aggression,” the summary indicates that the review includes
studies on teenagers. When I open the article, I can see in the introduction that “war
play” in video games is discussed. If you need more research help, please visit
the Help Desk at James A. Gibson Library.