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Interpersonal Communication - COMM110 - Banfield


Library databases try to match the terms you search for - your keywords - with the words that appear in a book or 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.


Focusing Your Topic

Brainstorm ideas to move from a vague or broad concept, like criticism, to a narrower topic. Scholarly articles are very specific, since the authors did research to answer their focused question, then wrote about the results.

  • Who might this issue effect? Men, mothers, families, friends, employees, etc.
  • Where might you see this issue occur? Home, workplace, college, etc.

Think of synonyms, broader terms, narrower terms, or similar ideas to search most effectively for these very specific sources. This will also 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, and then discover more during your research.


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

Sample Topic: How do married couples communicate when giving and receiving criticism?

Keyword chart with three main concepts
Concept 1: "married couple"  Concept 2: communication     Concept 3: criticism
spouse (a close synonym) dialogue criticize
relationship  (a broader term) interchange                opinion
wife  (a more specific term) "interpersonal communication" judgment
marriage  (a related idea) conversation confilict
  • 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:
    • communication AND "married couple" AND criticism
  • Multiple terms that mean close to the same thing (terms in the same column) can be connected in a search using OR:
    • spouse OR marriage
  • These two strategies can be combined as well:
    • communication AND criticize AND (spouse OR marriage)

Library Databases

Databases are collections of digital resources--like articles, eBooks, or streaming video--that are grouped together to make research easier. Some are grouped by purpose, some by subject, and others by source type. Use the keyword techniques above to search in these databases. Look for a checkbox for Peer-Reviewed to ensure you find scholarly research articles.