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Keyword Search

Controlling how the computer interprets your search

There are some standard ways of retrieving information from any electronic database, be it an online library catalog (GIL), a periodical database (GALILEO), or an Internet database.

Keywords are the words that describe your topic of research. These can be individual words or a phrase. These keywords can be chosen from the sentence you create to define your research topic. Once you choose the significant words, you can then come up with synonyms, or words with similar meanings. All of these can be keywords to use in forming your search.

Generally, when you submit a keyword search to a library catalog or periodical database, the title, subject, and abstract fields are the only parts of the record searched. These fields are called the Basic Index.

Keyword searching is available in almost all databases. Many databases require you to explicitly describe the relationship between keywords using special connectors to associate your keywords in various relationships.


You've chosen the topic "alternative fuels" for a research paper. To help you focus this rather broad topic, you put it into the form of a question or sentence:

What are the types of alternative fuels being used or developed for automobiles?

Usually, the nouns and adjectives in your sentence or question will give you a good idea of what your keywords will be. In this case, the phrase "alternative fuels" and "automobiles" are the significant keywords.

From these keywords make a list of synonyms to use as alternatives. Since different writers will describe the same thing using different words, it's good to arm yourself with a variety of keywords so you don't miss important information.

alternative fuels automobiles
natural gas
hydrogen fuel cells
motor vehicle

You probably would need to do some background reading before coming up with some of the terms you see above.

WANT MORE on background reading?
> Unit 2 > Starting Your Search

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