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CNSL 2200: Introduction to Student Leadership: Search Tips

Brainstorm Keywords

Before jumping into searching, it's important to have a game plan. One strategy is to make a concept map and brainstorm keywords to use when searching. You can do this with a piece of paper and a pencil, online using a concept map creator like, or using a mobile app like Notability or MindMeister. 

Search Terminology

Researchers write publications in formal language using specialized terminology of their disciplines.  To find relevant papers, terms that researchers are likely to use in their publications need to be chosen as keywords for searching, as opposed to popular words. 

For example, someone searching for articles about sports physiology is more likely to be successful in searching for "endorphins" rather than in looking for "runner's high." 

Subject encyclopedias can be good sources of background information and terminology in use within the disciple and subject area of interest.  Also look for subject headings and keywords listed in search results of articles similar to what you are interested in finding. 

Try a variety of terms and combinations, including synonyms or related terms to refine and focus your search.  Searching for relevant and quality sources of information is an iterative process.  Use what you find in early searches to inform and refine future searches.

Search Tips

Too few results?

  • Use fewer search terms, or swap out for synonyms.
  • Borrow the subject terms coming up in the sidebar.
  • Truncate keywords to get all variations of the word (e.g. "censor*" searches for censor, censored, censorship, and censors). 

Too many results?

  • Be more precise (e.g. basketball instead of sports).
  • Add an additional keyword.
  • Enclose exact phrases in double quotation marks (e.g., "world health organization").
  • Refine your search using the facets like publication type, date range, or subject headings.

Still need help?