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Searching With Keywords
Searching library databases isn't like searching Google--it's more comparable to online shopping. You'll need to use keywords instead of sentences, and spelling matters, so it's recommended you keep a dictionary and thesaurus tab open for help.
Keywords are the main idea of your topic or sentence. Here are a few examples to help you pinpoint your own keywords:
Research question: How does immigration affect the economy of the United States?
Keywords: immigration AND economy AND United States
Research question: What effect does poverty have on mental health?
Keywords: poverty AND mental health
When searching, you'll need to develop your keywords as you go--the goal is to find the words an expert in your field would use. Here are a few ways to find those:
find an article on your subject from a large news magazine (like Time, Forbes, or The New Yorker) and note the words they use
enter your keywords into a thesaurus and try the alternate options
enter your search question into Google and scan the results for alternate language
ask a librarian!
This list is only a starting point--as a member of the Saint Paul College Community, you have access to over 100 databases through the library. You can see them all, and search by subject, here.
Academic Search Premier This link opens in a new window
All purpose database covering most academic topics. Includes peer-reviewed and news articles.
Films on Demand This link opens in a new window
Find streaming videos on topics such as nursing, math, automotive, culinary, art, history and social issues.
Global Issues in Context This link opens in a new window
Global Issues in Context focuses on broad issues, such as war, genocide, terrorism, human rights, poverty, famine, globalization, world trade, nuclear proliferation, and global warming, as well as more specific events and topics in the news that are related to these broader issues. It also includes detailed information on nations to provide a foundation for cross-cultural studies and, International periodicals and news sources that bring additional insight and currency.
MegaFile This link opens in a new window
EBSCO MegaFILE is a multi-disciplinary database providing full text for nearly 12,000 total publications. MegaFILE is comprised of EBSCO’s Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, MasterFILE Premier and Regional Business News databases.
Newsstream This link opens in a new window
U.S. news content as well as archives that stretch back into the 1980s from national and regional news sources including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Newsday, and Chicago Tribune the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center This link opens in a new window
Opposing Viewpoints has reference, news, and peer-reviewed articles on a wide range of current events and social issues. The browsing feature makes this an excellent source to find a topic.
Pop Culture Collection This link opens in a new window
Pop Culture Collection provides access to scholarly journals and magazines that both analyze and contribute to popular culture. The database offers useful information for researchers in social science, history, art or liberal arts courses.
Searching in databases can return hundreds or even thousands of results, but there are simple ways to refine your search in order to find exactly what you're looking for. Using the following terms can help you be more specific.
||Use AND to narrow your search. For example, searching eviction AND minnesota will find resources with both terms, helpfing you to find more specific results. You can keep adding terms with AND: eviction AND minnesota AND pandemic AND landlord
||Use OR to broaden your search. OR is particularly helpful if your term has a frequently used synonym. For example, you can search landlord OR property manager to find articles that contain either term.
||Use NOT to exclude a word or phrase from your search. For example, using eviction NOT COVID will bring back results for eviction but will exclude COVID-related articles.
||Truncation allows you to search alternative word endings. For example, evict* will search evict, evicted, and eviction all at the same time.
||A wildcard replaces one character in a word. Wom?n will search women and woman.
||# can accommodate spellings where a character may or may not be present. For example, colo#r will search color and colour.
The following keyword searches may be helpful as a starting place for your research:
[your topic] AND psychological aspects
[your topic] AND political aspects
[your topic] AND religious aspects
[your topic] AND personal narratives
[your topic] AND public opinion
[your topic] AND (laws or regulations)
[your topic] AND statistical data
[your topic] AND social policy
[your topic] AND interviews
[your topic] AND crimes against
[your topic] AND health aspects
Phrase list compiled by Kathy Herrlich, Research & Instruction Services, Northeastern University