The Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library

RESC 098 25: Masks and Meaning: Research Tips and Tricks

Selecting keywords for your search

What are keywords? 

Keywords are the terms you use to search for information about your topic in the library catalog or databases.  They are generally significant words (nouns or noun phrases) that best describe the major concepts you are seeking to explore.  

When you perform a keyword search, the database will search for your term anywhere in the information it contains about the book or article -- in the title, the name of the author, the abstract, the publication information, etc. 

How do I choose the best keywords for my search?

Before reading the information below, it might be helpful to view this 2 minute video from the Northwestern University Library: 

Research 101: Building Keywords

In other words...

1) Once you have settled on a topic and / or a set of research questions, identify the major concepts within them. 

2)  Take things a step further by thinking about synonyms and related terms that might also be used to describe your major concepts. Since people discribe the same concept in different ways, using alternative words will often lead you other sources. 

3) You won't always know the best keywords to use when you are beginning your research.  As you search for information and begin reading, keep an eye out for other terms that you might use to expand or refine your search. 

When should I use WorldCat?

The library’s catalog, WorldCat, is often the best place to begin your research.  By using WorldCat, you will find information about books, e-books, DVDs, CDs, selected articles, and other materials that are available in Bucknell’s library.  You will also find information about materials that are available at other libraries throughout the world.    

WorldCat allows you to limit your search to find only Bucknell's holdings or to find only certain types of materials (books, DVDs, etc.)  And if you discover a resource in WorldCat that the library does not own, you can easily request it through Interlibrary Loan using the "Get It" button in the catalog record. 

If you are looking for scholarly articles, it is useful to search the library’s online databases in addition to WorldCat.  By searching the databases that are most commonly used within your discipline, you will find information about articles that are not listed in WorldCat.