Choosing Keywords

When searching in library research databases, it is important to search with keywords that capture the essential key concepts that make up your topic because the more terms that you use in your search, the fewer results. A search like impact of gender on people's salary expectations will retrieve fewer results than if you searched for gender AND salary AND expectations.

Brainstorm all of the keywords or terms with the meaning of your key concepts. For the word salary, authors might use terms such as wages, pay, income, or earnings. Searching for all of those terms together with the Boolean operator OR, such as pay OR wages OR income OR earnings, tells the search engine to find all of these terms in your search results. 

The Reference Resource Guide at the Brennan Library provides background information as well as the scholarly language used for your topic including keywords, people's names, or place names.

Once you have your keywords for searching, try them in various combinations in the library's research databases or in the library catalog. Watch this video about brainstorming for keywords.