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Online Learning Guide: Search Strategies

An introduction to distance learning library resources and services available to support online students at HCTC.

Find Keywords Related to the Topic

Making a list of keywords and phrases related to your topic will speed up the process of searching for resources. Explore the activities on this page to create a lists of keywords and discover how to use keywords to search.

Keywords are usually the main nouns or verbs related to a topic. You can find keywords in your thesis statement and in a dictionary, thesaurus, Website, library database, library catalog, newspaper, or magazine.

Example Topic: secondhand smoke

Example Thesis Statement: Secondhand smoke is dangerous for your health.

Keywords: secondhand smoke, dangers, health

Remember to add your thesis statement and keywords to your Project Plan Worksheet.

Using Keywords to Search

Once you have a list of keywords related to your topic, you can use them to do combination searches in any database. Keyword searching is a cycle, which means that if you do not get the results you want at first, you may need to try a different combination of keywords.

You can combine keywords using AND, OR, and NOT to get the results you want.

These diagrams are examples of searching for "boys AND girls," "boys OR girls," and "boys NOT girls."

Using AND limits the results to only those items that contain both words.

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boys AND girls--only where circles overlap

Using OR expands the results to items that contain either or both words.

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boys OR girls--all of both circles

Using NOT limits the results to items that contain one word but not the other.

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boys NOT girls--only the purple part of the circle

Watch this video created by the Wayne State University Library System to find out how to combine keywords to search a database.

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