Next, let’s talk about how to figure out what words to enter in the boxes in your library database. The words you enter are called search terms.
Stop and Think
How do you think up the words you enter into an everyday Google search?
Generate a list of search terms
The search terms you use in a library database like MEDLINE with Full Text can make or break your research. Search terms help you find articles that are relevant to your topic. It can be hard to know what search terms to use.
Make your list search terms:
- Get a piece of scrap paper.
- Write a sentence about your research topic.
- Next, circle the most important words from this sentence. These are your main search terms. You could stop now and type these into the search boxes in a database, or in Google, but to be a good researcher, you need to take extra steps:
- Now, for each important word, come up with at least one synonym.
- Then, for each important word, come up with at least one narrower word or phrase.
- Finally, for each important word, come up with at least one more broad word or phrase.
- Try them! Enter your search terms in a Google site:.gov search, and in a library database or two.
You can watch this 30-second silent video to see an example.
Librarians are skilled at helping students come up with search terms. You can live-chat [link opens in new tab] with us. Try entering: "Hi, I need help generating search terms for my research project."
You're almost done. Just a little more information for you—6. Bringing it All Together