Choosing Basic Search Terms

When using any search system it makes sense to take a moment to think through the search terms you want to enter. This will help you get the most relevant and precise results. Here are some steps you may want to take to come up with the best search terms for simple keyword searches.

Begin with Nouns Find Synonyms
Spell Check Broaden and Narrow Terms
previous tutorial next tutorial

Begin with Nouns

Nouns are usually more useful as search terms than other words. If possible, replace any adjectives or verbs with nouns. Here are some examples:

Examples

  • Use Texas cowboys instead of Texan cowboys
  • Use Hinduism worship instead of Hindu worship
  • Use fiction instead of fictitious stories

[Back to top]

Spell Check

It goes without saying that a misspelled term will make a search ineffective. All the same, misspelling search terms is usual. This is especially true with names. It is also good to check for alternative spellings. Here are some terms that can be easily misspelled:

Examples

  • complaints / complains
  • Haydn / Heiden
  • Celtic / Keltic

[Back to top]

Find Synonyms

When creating search terms, it helps to think of words that mean exactly or nearly the same as the ones initially used. This is especially important when searching for sources with technical vocabulary.

Examples

  • adhesive / glue
  • petroleum / oil
  • sentry / guard

[Back to top]

Broaden and Narrow Terms

When your search terms are getting you too many or too few results, it may be useful to narrow or broaden your terms. Of course, this may also mean you might need to narrow or broaden your project's topic. Here are a few examples:

Examples

  • Initial term: honeybees
    Narrower Term: Africanized honeybees
    Broader Term: bees
  • Initial term: gymnastics
    Narrower Term: tumbling
    Broader Term: exercise
  • Initial term: income
    Narrower Term: interest
    Broader Term: wealth

[Back to top]

previous tutorial next tutorial