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CRIJ 3324 (Fansher)

Keyword Searching

When searching in a database, you will want to use keywords not full sentences or questions. Additionally, databases will not generate synonyms. This means that a database wouldn't connect that U.S.A and America may very likely be talking about the same location. You have to provide these terms to the database which sometimes means creative thinking to generate new keywords to try. You can generate keywords from your research question or thesis statement. For example:

My research topic is: 

The history of education reform in elementary schools in the United States

Some keywords I might try could include:

  • Education Reform
  • Elementary education reform
  • k-12 education reform
  • Education policy
  • United States OR U.S.A. OR America

I can then use Boolean searching to help use these search terms together. 


If I am searching education reform, the database will recognize these as two separate keywords, education and reform. Those two keywords searched separately won't necessarily provide me with information about education reform. I will get results just about education and not about reform, or results just about reform but not about education.

When I am searching a phrase like this, I can encase the phrase within quotation marks: "education reform". This tells the database that I want the text to appear exactly as I have typed it between the quotation marks. The exact spelling, punctuation, etc. This can be a useful tool for dealing with phrase keywords or for keywords with unusual spellings.