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.
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
I found narrow keywords and/or phrases like “digital communication inequality”, but also broad keywords and/or phrases like “students”. Notice that “affect” is NOT a keyword. Words like “affect,” “how,” and “increase” don’t really add anything to our search, so it is more effective to leave them out.
Here's a search strategy worksheet you can print and use for your topic and a sample of one already filled out.