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ENGL 101 - English Composition I - Yontosh

What are keywords?

Keywords are important words and concepts used to find resources (books, articles, things to buy, cat memes, etc.).Decorative graphic of a key.

  • When you search the internet or a library database, the computer searches for articles, websites, or books that mention the words you asked for.
  • So, when picking your keywords, imagine the kinds of things you want to find and think of keywords that might be in those resources.

Where do I get my keywords?

Your first keywords will come from your research question.

  • Pull out the most important words or groups of words from your research question (people, places, things).

You can get more keywords from:

  • Related words to your topic that you already know.
  • In the Subject Terms, Subject Headings, or Keyword sections of your sources.
  • Words you see from reading your sources.

Combining your Keywords

Choose simple but clear keywords and connect them with Boolean language (AND, OR, NOT)

AND Searches for places where both keywords appear together
Use of "AND" as Boolean operator
OR Searches for either of the keywords. They might be together or they might not.
Use of "OR" as Boolean operator
NOT Searches for places where the first keyword appears without the second.
Use of "NOT" as Boolean operator


  • Stress AND College
  • Psychology NOT Developmental
  • Pets AND Cats OR Dogs

Be careful when using NOT in your keyword search; this can sometimes cause good items to be excluded from your results.