Skip to Main Content

COM1010 Research Tutorial

Your Guide to a Successful Speech!

About Keyword Searching

A keyword is most often a noun, or a word or phrase that describes the main concepts of a topic. Before you start searching it is a good idea to brainstorm synonyms and combinations of terms. This will increase your chances of finding information on a topic. For example, if your topic was capital punishment, you could also try using execution or death sentence. Not all terms will be found in every resource, so it helps to have a few different keywords to use to search.

Now that you know how to get around the Wayne State University Library home page, let's think about how to turn a topic into a research statement or question. This is where your prior knowledge and looking at background information is extremely helpful. Take a look at the example below to give you an idea of how to develop a research statement or question.

When searching, use quotes for phrases and concepts of two words or more. For example if you were looking for information on the digital divide, you'd use "digital divide". This tells the database to search for the subject as a whole, and not in individual pieces. You should not put whole sentences or long phrase in quotes. It is up to you to try searching with and without quotes to see what happens. Results may vary by database. 

My Keywords and Synonyms

Statement: How does the digital divide affect university students in urban areas?

Keywords and Synonyms:

Digital Divide: internet access inequality, digital inequality, digital communication inequality, global digital divide

University Students: students, college students, first year college students

Urban areas: cities, minority, inequality, poor

Notice that “affect” is NOT a keyword. Words like affecthow, and increase do not really help our search. For example, an author might use the word improve instead of increase, but if we use the keyword increase, it will not find articles that use the word improve, and they are pretty similar. Your search will be more effective if you leave them out.

So I might try a keyword search like this. Note I am only using the keywords--do not make your search a sentence. You only need to identify the important words that describe your search topic. 

digital inequality college students urban areas

Finding Your Keywords and Synonyms

Here's a search strategy worksheet you can print and use for your topic and a sample of one already filled out.