Search Tips

Developing Search Terms

The questions you are answering in this essay, "What makes the ideal community?", "How does the ideal community form?", or "How does technology impact the community?" don't have one definite answer. Also, you could write a whole book on this topic. Your challenge is to identify one specific aspect of this question you can address and research in just a few pages. That means selecting a fairly narrow topic, such as how parks affect community.

Don't use "community" alone as a search term. The term community has way too many different meanings and application to be useful alone. 

Again, think about your approach to the topic and what you think about the ideal community. Brainstorm words that you can include in your search to get more specific, relevant results. For example, let's say I am going to write a paper that proposes that libraries are vital to the ideal community. My search terms might be libraries and communities or maybe even public libraries and communities. 

These important search terms are called keywords. Here are a few more tips about keywords.

  • Don’t just type your entire research question/topic into the search box! Only enter the most important terms in your research topic. These important terms are called keywords, and most library search systems work optimally with keywords, not whole questions or phrases.
  • Good keywords are usually specific nouns. You don't need words like significance, pro/cons, advantages, benefit, importance, affect, impact, etc.
  • You may need to include synonyms in your search to get all the possible results. For example, depending on the way you approach the question, you may want to search for results on communities and neighborhoods. 
Other Search Tips
  • Put phrases in quotes to tell the system you're only interested in those exact words, in that exact order. Ex: “social media”, "community gardens"
  • Use AND to narrow your searches. Ex: community AND libraries
  • Use OR and parentheses to broaden your searches. Ex: (community OR neighborhood) AND libraries (Notice how this example uses OR to include synonyms for the search in the AND example just above.)