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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

CICS 290A Class Visit

Head, Science and Engineering Library

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Rebecca Reznik-Zellen
Science and Engineering Library
Lederle Graduate Research Center, A273
Subjects: Computer Science

Keyword Searching

Keywords are the words that you use when searching online catalogs and library databases. Select your keywords carefully; the more targeted they are, the more efficient your searches will be. 

  • Keywords should represent the most important concepts in your topic.
  • Try multiple variants or synonyms of your keywords. Sometimes you may have to do several searches to identify keywords related to your topic.
  • If you find a good and relevant source for your topic, look for additional keyword synonyms in the title, abstract, and subject headings.

Modified from Choosing and Using Keywords Tutorial, CREDO Instruct

Choosing Keywords

Image from: Tips for Using Keyword Searching Effectively, SNHU Libraries

Research Log

Keyword Search Tips!

Are you getting too many results? Narrow your search by:

  • Put keyword phrases into quotations, IE: "artificial intelligence"
  • Use AND between search terms; Use NOT to eliminate irrelevant terms
  • Use fielded searches, IE: search in the title or abstract fields
  • Try additional synonyms for your keywords, look at subject headings of relevant results for ideas
  • Use filters to narrow down by time frame, format, etc. 
  • Try a different, more specialized database
  • Review your research question, is it too broad? 

Are you getting too few search results? Broaden your search by: 

  • Use OR between search terms
  • Nest keyword synonyms together using OR, IE: (iphone OR smartphone OR mobile phone)
  • Search Full Text or All Text rather than fields
  • Use truncation to find word variants, IE: autis* will return autistic or autism
  • Try alternative search terms
  • Try a different, more general database
  • Review your research question, is it too narrow? 



Image from Introduction to Boolean Operators, Slippery Rock University

Search Techniques Tutorials