Courtesy of Suffolk County Community College
Consider your topic and break it down into its main concepts. Then, think of related, broader, and narrower terms connected to each of these concepts. All of these terms/phrases are now your keywords.
Use in-class readings and subject encyclopedias to find important people, events, and concepts related to your topic. Note specialized vocabulary or terms. Add these to your keywords.
These are the terms you can enter into the library catalog and databases to do your searches. Remember to combine your keywords with AND, OR, NOT to get the best results!
If you get too few results, try less keywords. If you get too many, introduce another key concept to narrow your results. If your results don't seem to be relevant to your topic, try different combinations of keywords.
It's helpful to keep track of the words and terms you've searched, and which have yielded the best results. It's a dynamic process and you may have to experiment with several synonyms.
If you find a book or article that fits your topic, take a look at the subject terms it has been given. These are official terms that have been assigned books and articles from a list. Often subject terms are not intuitive, but once you find the exact term, it can make your search more precise.