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Assessment and Treatment of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction - HMNS208


Once you are ready to find research articles, you need to think about the words you will use in your search. Search tools try to match the terms you search for - your keywords - with the words that appear in an article's title, summary, or full text. You need to select the most important keywords to use as search terms. You should never search for your entire research question or thesis statement.


DON'T search for:

  • "How can bad childhood relationships with your parents lead to a tendency towards addiction?"

DO search for:

  • childhood and parents and addiction


Next, think of additional synonyms, broader terms, narrower terms, or similar ideas to search most effectively for the best sources. This will give you more options if your initial search does not return the results you expected. Brainstorming keywords can happen at any point during the research process - you may come up with some at the beginning, discover more during your exploration, and then have to try new ones when searching for scholarly articles.


This chart outlines how you might do this using the sample research question.

Sample Topic: How can bad childhood relationships with your parents lead to a tendency towards addiction?

Keyword chart with three main concepts
Concept 1: childhood  Concept 2: parents Concept 3: addiction  
youth (a close synonym) caregivers "substance abuse"
child  (a broader term) guardians                    "drug use"
infancy  (a more specific term) mothers alcoholism
development  (a related idea) adults compulsion


  • Quotation marks tell the search to find the entire phrase, not just each individual word.
  • Multiple concepts (terms from separate columns) can be connected in a search using AND:
    • youth and mothers and "substance abuse"
  • Multiple terms that mean close to the same thing (terms in the same column) can be connected in a search using OR:
    • caregivers or guardians
  • These two strategies can be combined as well:
    • youth and "substance abuse" and (caregivers or guardians)

Search strategies

  • Check the boxes for full text and peer reviewed to focus on scholarly research articles.
  • Look for limiters on the page that narrow by date of publication so you see only the most up-to-date research.


As you start finding new keywords, try the "search within" tool in the Research Starter databases (on the right of the list of articles) to limit the number of results and find more relevant options.

Search within

Although these databases are great for starting out, many also contain scholarly articles that you can cite in your research. If you can't find what you are looking for, more database options are listed on the next page.