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Library DIY

Terms and keywords to search with

When searching in library databases, it is important to search using the essential key concepts that make up your topic because the more terms that you use in your search, the fewer results you will get. 

For example: a search like  impact of gender on people's salary expectations will get you far fewer results than if you searched for gender AND salary AND expectations.

  • Brainstorm all of the terms that mean the same thing as your key concepts.
  • Just because you think of the word salary does not mean that all authors use that word.
  • They might use terms like wages, pay, income, or earnings.
  • Searching for all of those terms together with OR between them (for example: gender OR pay OR wages OR income OR earnings) tells the search engine to find at least one of these terms in your search results. It allows you to find all of the possible works on your topic at once without knowing exactly which term each author will use. 

Reference resources at the DU Library provides basic information about your topic including keywords, people's names, or place names. If you are focusing on a particular academic discipline like psychology, education, or business, take time to look at subject encyclopedias and other reference sources in your field to find basic information on your topic and to discover new keywords. 

Once you have your keywords for searching, try them in various combinations in the library's research databases. For more information on search techniques, visit Tips for Searching.