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A Guide to Library Research

Step-by-step guide with tutorials on the basics of research. Learn about library and online resources.


Once you have selected a topic, brainstorm ideas to create a list of keywords or phrases. Use these search words or terms in library databases or on the Internet. 

Keywords are:

  • a way to filter information
  • words or phrases that are critical to finding the best resources 
  • the best way to describe the needed information

Steps for determining keywords:

1) Extract single words or phrases: One of the easiest ways to determine keywords is to create a thesis statement or topic sentence and identify the important words. Even pulling out potential keywords from a draft outline of your paper is a good way to start.

2) Find synonyms for your keywords: Is there another way to say the same thing that might better filter the needed information? Another way to search for information about COVID-19 might be to use the words COVID, CORONAVIRUS, DELTA VARIANT, EPIDEMIC, or PANDEMIC in your search.

3) Think of related terms: If you are looking at the downturn in the local economy because of COVID-19, you may start with the keywords ECONOMY, COVID-19, and a specific location, such as HAWAII. You may also want to consider terms such as: JOBLESS RATE, UNEMPLOYMENT, or UNDEREMPLOYMENT.

Keywords by Sarah Myhre

Watch the video for an overview of keywords.

Generating Search Terms Video from the Oregon School Library Information System (3:50)

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