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English Composition 1001

Research made easy.

From Question to Keywords Tutorial

Once you have formulated your research question, you need to identify key concepts and their related keywords.

From Question to Keyword (video produced by University Libraries, University of North Carolina Greensboro)

Narrowing Your Search

  • First, find some background information on your topic. Go to:
  • Use subject words you discover through the background summaries to help focus your search. You can also use the subject terms you discover in article databases like Academic Search Complete to refine your search.  And consider these ways to narrow your search:
    • time period: 1960s, twentieth century
    • geographic area: United States, China, Cincinnati
    • types of people: teenagers, women, boys
    • aspects of a topic: stereotypical, psychological, sociological, historical
  • Use AND to combine ideas and focus your search. 
  • Use quotes to keep phrases together; for example:
    • adolescents AND smoking AND "heart disease"
    • women AND pregnancy AND "fetal alcohol syndrome"
    • "lung cancer" AND Ohio

Broadening Your Search

  • First, find some background information on your topic. Go to:
  • Use the resources above to find synonyms for your search terms.  Or use the subject terms you discover while searching in an article database like Academic Search Complete to broaden your search.
  • Use OR to search as many synonyms of the word as possible; for example:
    teens OR teenagers OR adolescents OR young adults
  • Use truncation (*) to retrieve multiple versions of a word; for example:
    child* will retrieve child, children or child's

Here are other examples using OR and truncation:

(teen* OR adolescent*) AND (heroin OR smoking OR marijuana OR drug abuse)
(child* OR teen*) AND (ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) AND (medication or Ritalin or Methylphenidate)

Be sure to use parentheses to keep the words you combine with"OR" together.

Useful Terms when Researching Debatable Questions

When you are trying to find arguments on a particular side, the words "pro" and "con" may not work and words like "for" and "against" may be ignored by the search engine.

Here are some terms to try:

Both sides of the debate "Pro" arguments "Con" arguments



















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