Keywords are simple words or phrases that sum up your topic, and can usually be pulled from your research question.
Simply eliminate those words and concepts that have no meaning, when on their own (How, does, the, etc.), and you're usually left with 2-3 good keywords to use in your research.
To find information on a topic, you would use one or more of your keywords to search for sources (books, media, articles, etc.) in the library's online catalog or databases.
Having a plan is important for finding the information you need to support your research. This might include some preliminary reading, knowing what you need to find and where you'll look, as well as knowing who to ask if you get stuck during the process!
Here are a few things to think about:
Need More Specific Results?
Sometimes keywords that worked well in one database won’t be as effective in another. If you find that your results are a bit scattered, try using that database’s terminology: the Thesaurus or Subject Terms link. Many databases have a list of designated words that are used to summarize a topic, but they may not be obvious to you.
Truncation Finds Multiple Word Forms
The asterisk (*) is usually used, to search words with the same root:
Sociolog* = Sociology, Sociological, Sociologist(s), etc.
Wildcard symbols (usually a ‘?’) replace a single letter:
Wom?n = Woman, Women
When you find an interesting article, make sure you get the citation information! Write down this information so that you (and your professor) can find the article, again.
Many databases offer the option to email a link to yourself, you can use a tool like RefWorks to keep track of your citations, or you can even save the full article in many cases.
Either of these options will make life a lot easier when it comes time to write your final paper.