Skip to main content

How do I...get started with academic research

This guide will walk you through the basics of academic research.

Keyword Usage

Have you ever typed a phrase or question into a search engine and gotten weird (or no) results? That's because most search engines use keyword searching as their default function, so the terms that you type in are being searched by the search engine as though they would appear exactly like that in the title of a book, name of an author, or title of a journal article. 

When searching databases or catalogs for resources about your topic, use the main terms in your research question. 

Example: Your topic is on women's suffrage in the United States. Your keywords could be women suffrage united states to give you a broad overview of women's suffrage in the United States. If you wanted to refine your search to a specific person in the women's suffrage movement in the United States, you could add AND Elizabeth Stanton to your search. 

You should also think about synonyms for your keywords. We could have searched women AND vote AND America. We should see similar results, but sometimes using synonyms give you completely different results. This is helpful because what you may call something (Obama Care) may be called something else in academic literature (Affordable Care Act).

Select the Advanced Search option to the right so you can get more options for your search:

Use Boolean Operators with your Keywords

Boolean operators refine your search results to make them more relevant to what you want.

AND: both of your keywords must be in every entry‚Äč
          ex: vote AND women
OR: at least one of your keywords must be in every entry
          ex: global warming OR climate change
NOT: a keyword must not be in any of the entries
          ex: United States NOT Britain

Try a keyword and Boolean search on one of the databases below: