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Planning a Search Strategy: Identifying key terms

Search terms

Before you start searching, it is very important to consider the key topics and establish appropriate terms. Rather than entering a whole assignment title, you need to pick out the important words needed to describe your topic.

The databases will only look for exactly what you type in though, so for each keyword you need to apply a few search tips. 

In addition to considering what other terms may have been used to describe that topic, you should also think about broader and narrower terms, different spellings/word endings etc.

Identifying key terms

From the following assignment title the key concepts are highlighted:

"Discuss the impact of social media on teenagers"

So the terms you will be using in your search strategy are social media and teenagers.

Selecting your search terms

Some tips when selecting your search terms:

  • Consider all the synonyms and related terms for the terms you are searching for:

         e.g. teenager, teen, teens, youth, young adult, juvenile, adolescent

  • Think about  American spelling and terminology

         e.g. colour / color,  behaviour / behavior, lift / elevator

  • Consider formal and informal terms

         e.g. heart attack / myocardial infarction

  • Think about different word endings, plurals

         e.g. child, child's, children, childhood

  • Note acronyms and abbreviations

         e.g. computer aided design / CAD