General databases cover a wide variety of topics or disciplines, and also include both scholarly sources, such as peer-reviewed journal articles, and non-scholarly sources, such as newspapers. Searching in these databases is a good way to get started exploring a topic, and finding out about current debates around your topic.
Subject specific databases usually cover a more focused topic or discipline(s), and contain primarily scholarly source materials. As you learn more about your topic and narrow your research focus, use subject specific databases to locate information from a particular disciplinary perspective.
Keywords are individual words or short phrases that represent the main ideas in your research topic or question.
To come up with keywords for your research, consider doing the following:
1) Think carefully about your topic. Write it out in a sentence or two.
2) Circle the key concepts in your topic sentences.
3) Brainstorm synonyms or related terms for your key concepts. One approach to brainstorming is to create a concept map. You can do this with simple pen and paper or via free online programs such as Coggle (you will need to sign in with a Google account to use Coggle) or Bubbl.us.
4) These are now your search terms. Experiment with different combinations of the terms using AND/OR.
5) When you successfully find sources that are relevant to your search, pay attention to the keywords and subject terms in the database record and the source itself. This may lead you to additional sources.