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Lancaster County CTC

Identifying Keywords & Related Terms Example

Identifying key concepts and what other words or phrases describe that concept you will get more meaningful results. Here is an example of how you can break down a question into concepts and their related phrases.

How often does eyewitness testimony lead to wrongful convictions? Keywords: eyewitness testimony, wrongful convictions, statistics

Original Phrase Related words or ideas
eyewitness testimony eyewitness identification/misidentification, false testimony, police lineup, eyewitness errors, lineup identification, eyewitness evidence, eyewitness memory
wrongful conviction innocence, false imprisonment, exoneration, false arrest, wrongful incarceration, criminal justice errors
how often statistics, data, history, frequency, extent

Applying Search Limiters

When you perform a database search, often you will be given a lot of results -more than you could ever go through. When this happens, it's important to tell the database exactly what kind of resources your looking for by applying filters.

Filters (sometimes called limiters) help take away search results you don't want. You can filter by type and date.

Type - Each of these filters helps to make sure that the kinds of results your search gives you are appropriate for research.

  • Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals - Limits results to only articles that have been reviewed by other experts (so we know we can trust it too).
  • Academic Journals - Limits results to only articles presenting research and findings.
  • Full Text - Limits results to only articles you can access right now. However, remember that the library can bring in journals we don't currently have from other libraries.

Date - These filters limit your results according to when they were published.

  • Limit results to the last 5 years - This ensures that you only see the most recent articles on your topic. You may continue to subtract years if your  results are still too large.

How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Operators (AND OR NOT)

AND - Finds all the words
OR - Finds either of the words
NOT - Excludes a word from search

Using Quotes to Narrow your Search

One thing students struggle with is finding too much irrelevant information in the databases. This is because of one very specific problem: computers are literal. They will search for your words wherever they can, which means you might get a result that uses your words in a different context.

One way you can help them understand you is to use quotation marks in your search to ensure the database or search engine looks for those words together as a phrase. Be on the lookout for words that provide a specific meaning the word it comes before to after.

This table provides examples of words with multiple contexts and how you can use that information to change your search.
Words with Multiple Contexts Words that Describe Previous Word Type in search box, In quotes
school high, elementary, charter "charter school"
games Olympic, video, board "video games"
tiger cat, Woods, king, Detroit "Tiger Woods"

Worksheets to Help YOUR Research