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Library Research Tips

Keyword Selection Tips

1. Determine your research topic. Often times, this can/will be phrased as a research question.

2. Identify the main ideas or concepts of your topic.

3. Build a keyword list. Start with your main ideas or concepts, and then try to come up with as many synonyms or related terms for each main idea or concept that you can.

4. Following this, it's time to search! Selecting the proper database(s) to perform your search will drastically impact your results. If it's your first time trying this style of search, or you just want to take a peek at what's out there, try Academic Search Complete.

Don't get discouraged if your search returns few results: depending on how specialized your research topic is, you may need to try a more specialized database, alter your keywords, or try different combinations. Visit Bailey Library's Research Services or Request an appointment with your Personal Librarian for assistance!

Sample Keyword Selection Process

Determine Your Research Topic or Question

Do high school student athletes have higher or lower grades than their non-athlete peers?

Identify Main Ideas or Concepts

Do high school students athletes have higher or lower grades than their non-athlete peers?

Build a Key Word List

Concept 1: High School Main Idea 2: Student Athletes Main Idea 3: Grades

secondary school


Grades 9 - 12


sport or sports players

**you may want to try individual sport player i.e. football players, basketball players, etc.


Test Scores

Scores (this might get tricky)*

Grade Point Average

Grading Scale

Search using combinations of the above terms

At this point, you may want to make a list of where you're searching or where you plan to search. You could also work out how to combine these search terms in different ways, perhaps with Boolean Operators.

Search Strategy Worksheet

Choose Your Keywords

Break down your research question into keywords, and select the most important concepts/ideas. 

  • What methods of strength training are most effective in young adults?
  • How does universal health care impact healthcare costs in Canada

Enter the keywords you identified in the search boxes

Use Boolean Operators to combine your keywords

Cannot find what you need?

Identify synonyms to your keywords

young adults = young person, adolescents, juvenile, minor, teen

health care costs = medical cost, treatment cost, health costs, hospital bill, health expenditure

Using Keywords

Article Database Searching