The worksheet below is used in all face-to-face library instruction sessions for English Composition I. Download and print the worksheet to take select keywords, find background information, and find scholarly articles for your own topic.
Search tools try to match the terms you search for - your keywords - with the words that appear in a book or article's title, summary, or even the 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:
DO search for:
You shouldn't use the title of an essay from your textbooks as keywords. Although you might be writing about that essay, your research should be on the topic the essay is about. Your keywords should be related to the main concepts of your topic. Think of additional synonyms, broader terms, narrower terms, or similar ideas to search most effectively for the best sources. The chart below and the video in the next section explain this in more detail.
Sample Topic: Is a college degree worth the money, or are street smarts as valuable in the real world?
|Concept 1: "college degree"||Concept 2: worth||Concept 3: "street smarts"|
|"bachelor's degree" (a close synonym)||value||"common sense"|
|"higher education" (a broader term)||"return on investment"||"informal education"|
|"business major" (a more specific term)||salary||"life experience"|
|"formal education" (a related idea)||employment||intelligence|
Quotation marks tell the search to find the entire phrase, not just each individual word.
Multiple concepts (terms from each column) can be connected in a search using AND:
"college degree" and worth
Multiple terms that mean close to the same thing (terms from each row in the same column) can be connected in a search using OR:
"college degree" or "formal education"