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How do I identify my search terms?

Unlike Google, which looks for related or alternative terms of words used in a search, most library catalogues or article databases do not have this feature. It’s important to search for alternative words that represent your ideas since articles or books may use different words to describe the same idea.

example Example

Your question is "What are the effects of media coverage and public opinion polling during an election campaign?"

There are three main ideas in this question:

  • Media coverage
  • Public opinion polling
  • Election campaign

For each of these ideas, it is possible to identify keywords and related terms:

Media coverage Public opinion polling Election campaign
Mass media Surveys Political campaigning
Television Polls Political parties
Newspapers Election forecasting Election debates
librarian Librarian tip!

You may want to consider using standardized terms (often referred to as "subject headings" or "descriptors"). In many databases, articles are assigned one or more standardized terms and once you find the correct term(s), you will be able to quickly find many articles on your topic. This may be helpful when searching for an idea that can be expressed in more than one way.

For example, to help you find information on all kinds of "beauty products" such as cosmetics, deodorants, sunscreens, toothpastes, the business database ABI/INFORM uses the phrase "health & beauty aids". For more information on standardized terms, see the section "How do I search for articles on a topic?" on subject searching.

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