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PBHL2920: LGBTQ Health: Keywords & Search Tips


Truncation Finds Multiple Word Forms

This can be especially useful when attempting to search for multiple acronyms, based on the starting letters, LGBT:


The asterisk (*) is usually used, to search words with the same root:

For instance, LGBT* will find... LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQ+, LGBTQA, LGBTQIA,... LGBTQQIAAP2S.. among other variations.

It will NOT find other acronyms like GLBT, though, because they do not start with the same letters.


Wildcard symbols (usually a ‘?’) replace a single letter:

Wom?n = Woman, Women

Getting Started with Keywords

What's a Keyword?

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.

Choosing a Topic

Rather than attempting to write a paper on the large issue of health in the LGBT community, you will likely want to narrow your focus to a smaller part of the broader topic. For instance, you could...

  • ... look specifically at a sub-population of LGBT individuals (gay men, lesbians, transgender men/women, etc.)
  • ... identify an area of concern for one or more sub-populations (provider sensitivity, addiction, health costs, etc.)
  • ... focus on a social issue affecting the health care needs of LGBT individuals (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.)

The more narrow your focus, the fewer resources you might find... but, you might also have a greater understanding of your topic/population when you're finished!

As you do your preliminary research, you'll find that some keywords work better than others, and maybe even discover some new ones to add to your list!

  1. Start with a broad keyword that describes your overarching topic.  This will set the foundation for your search. 

    The keyword LGBT* will locate all of the articles/sources that discuss LGBT* issues and individuals, but not necessarily health-related topics.

  2. Next, add a keyword that focuses your initial results.

    Adding health or "mental health" (quotes keep words together) will ensure that every result deals with this narrower topic.

  3. Add more keywords, as necessary, or use available limits (date, type, subject) to get your results to a manageable set.
  4. Not finding the right topic?  Adjust your search (slowly) to hone in on the best results.

Don't worry if you only have 2 keywords, to begin with.  Sometimes you need to do some reading before you are able to pin down a narrower topic.  BUT, if you find that you need 4+ terms to define your research, you may be too focused, and will want to rethink things.

LGBTQ+ Terminology

Because of the diversity of LGBT individuals, it can be difficult to find exactly what you're looking for with just one search.  Knowing the correct terms can help you to narrow in on the population and topic that best matches your research needs.

Some terms may be considered outdated (homosexual) or offensive (hermaphrodite), so it's important to approach this topic with sensitivity and knowledge.

Below are some useful resources: