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Research: Search Terms


Three Strategies for Better Search Results

  • Pull the most important words from your thesis statement or question.
  • Find synonyms
  • Look for relevant search words from general information about your topic

Create a list of these search words or keywords. Try them out in the search engine or database you want to use for your search.

Some databases and search engines will give you suggested search terms or keywords.

Sample Keyword String



Being armed with a list of search terms will make your search easier and faster.

Sample keywords:

“death penalty” bias

sexting  “psychological effects”

adolescen* suicide statistics


Search Engines

With most search engines when you put in your search terms the first in the list of hits are the most popular not the best. The most popular search engines are google, yahoo, and bing.

If your search is not going well in one search engine change to another and see what happens.


Here are some general hints in using search engines.

  • Search engines use  Boolean operators
  • Any words you put in for a search google sees it as an AND
  • You can eliminate topic you don't want using a minus sign  example: Mexico City -travel
  • Mexico AND City NOT travel
  • Google automaticly searches for suffixes but other search engines may use a wildcard example: call*  will look for calling, called, caller etc.
  • Use quotes around a phrase you want to search as a phrase  young adult
  • One way to narrow your search is by using site:
  • To get better websites you can limit it to addresses with edu or gov or org Sample:     medical marijuana site:gov



Keyword Worksheet

Write down the search terms and keywords you have created on this worksheet.

Boolean Search Tutorial

Boolean Keyword string examples

Add the Boolean Operators to your keyword string. If you click on the Advance Search link the Boolean Operators will already be there. All you have to do is type them in the correct place.

"death penalty" AND bias

sexting AND "psychological effects"

adolesen* AND suicide AND statistics


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