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Identify Search Terms

Have you ever tried to hold a conversation with someone about a topic they know a lot about, but which you know nothing? You donít understand what they are saying. The same results occur when you try to search for information without identifying the search terms which describe the topic you are researching.

The key to finding the information you need is to read background information and talk to experts. This information will contain words and phrases which describe your topic. To prepare for research, you must

  • Collect words and phrases which describe your topic

  • Think of other synonyms or ways to describe what you are looking for

  • Group search terms into categories of:

    • more important and less important terms

    • specific and broader terms

    • terms you want to use first and terms for later

Remember to consult with the librarians at the Information Desk. We have experience working with search terms used by the various research tools and can make suggestions.

You are now ready to begin looking up your search terms in research tools. You can choose to

  • search for your terms in any part of a source record (title of the source or abstract summary of the source), which is called free text searching

  • see if your search term is considered an official descriptor or search heading by the research tool, which is called controlled vocabulary searching

More about Controlled Vocabulary searching


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