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INTD 105: Critical thinking, skepticism, and conspiracy theories (Professor Hahn): How to come up with keywords

What is a keyword?

Keyword is a library term for any word that represents a concept that you are searching for. When you type a word into any database, you want to use keywords.

Keywords tend to be:

  • Nouns or verbs
  • Single words or short phrases
  • Vitally important to the concept you are looking for.
    • In other words, if you took them out you would have a different topic.

Keywords are almost never:

  • Connecting words like "the" "it" "then
  • Special search terms like "and" "or" or "not" (More on this later)

How to use keywords

When you are searching in a database, remember that these resources think differently from you. You need to use special terms to get the database to give you good information.

If you want to connect two concepts, use the word AND. That will give you a list of articles that contain both the concepts you connect.

If you want to look for multiple independent concepts, use the word OR. That will take each word you connect and give you a list of articles that contains either or both concepts.

Some databases also use NOT to exclude information. If you use NOT, the list of articles should remove all articles with the word after NOT.

How to come up with good keywords

The following things are great sources of keywords:

  • Topics
  • Writing Prompts
  • Research Questions
  • Thesis Statements.

You can take any of these concepts and pull out keywords from them, just by erasing unimportant connecting words.

Another method is the one we started the class with: Summarize your paper or topic using only 3-5 words.


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