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POSC 101 (Surak): Keyword Searching

Introduction to Political Science, taught by Dr. Surak

When and Where Can I Access Databases?

Databases are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can use them on or off campus. If you are using them from off campus you will be prompted to put in your SU username and password (the same one you use for Gull Net, MyClasses, or an SU computer).

Voting Image

Vote! above a red ballot box, locked. A card with a star on it is sticking out of the top hole. Lightning bolts are coming out of the middle.

Keyword Exercise

Research Question: "How does media affect voting in young people?"

The first step is to identify the most important parts of the question, the keywords, that get to the base of what we what to research.

Keywords:   media    voting    young people

Now we need to brainstorm some of the different ways we can think about these key concepts. Those alternate keywords can be synonyms, broader, or more narrow terms.

For example: media might generate a list like: Voting might generate a list like:

And young people might generate a list like this:

  • television
    • news
    • talk shows
  • internet
  • social media
    • twitter
    • facebook
    • instagram
  • social networking
  • campaigns
  • political campaigns
    • advertisement
  • election
  • vote
  • civic engagement
  • polls
  • students
    • college students
    • university students
    • undergraduates
    • high school students
  • youth
  • young adults
  • millennials 
  • 18-24 years old

Television is one type of media, and a talk show is one type of television program; the terms get more narrow. Civic engagement is a broader category under which voting might rest. And youth is just another way of saying young people. All of these are legitimate ways of coming up with alternate keywords. You never know which one will be best for a particular database or website until you start looking! What works well in one, might not go over very well in another.

You can use the worksheet below to explore options for your own topic.


In addition to the link to below, MS Word has a built-in thesaurus: