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ECON 150: Search Strategies


What are keywords? Keywords are the most important words in a research statement or question. They are the words that create significance or meaning.

Why use keywords? Keywords are important in research because they are highly useful to facilitate an online search for information. They open the doors to vast amounts of information. Keywords may also be referred to as “search terms.”

Explore the web

Not sure where to start? Still narrowing down your exact topic? Try searching around on Google first. Read news articles, blogs, or lists to gather ideas. As you read and your interests change, you might come across more keywords to add to your search as well.

Google Web Search

Or try resources that you might already be aware of, such as:

1. Topic and Keyword Development

Presentation Outline

Topic Exploration

  • Create a research question and identify keywords
    • Keywords act as search terms when exploring topics and resources
    • e.g., "What can I do with a degree in marketing?"
  • Broaden or narrow your search by expanding or altering your keywords
    • Generate variations to your search strategy
      • Brainstorm synonyms
      • Expand or specify a word's meaning
    • Re-evaluate these core keyword areas ("can I do", "degree", "marketing", and their synonyms, alterations, etc.)
      • Are there any redundancies between the areas that you previously missed?
      • Does any core area have the ability to mislead or confuse the search?
        • e.g., "degree" and its varieties might skew the results toward lists of degree programs, online courses, etc., instead of toward career-oriented resources

Gathering Resources

  • Once you have a topic secured (e.g., your three job types), repeat this exercise as you begin your research to find relevant resources
  • What other questions do you need answered? What keywords pertain to those questions?
    • e.g., "What kind of salary can I get in advertising?
    • e.g., "What is the job outlook for a market research analyst?

2. Connecting Your Keywords or Phrases

Boolean operators tell the search engine how to connect your keywords together, and significantly affect the search results.

"Quotation marks" - Use quotation marks around a phrase you want kept together.

e.g., "Organizational behavior"

Asterisk* - Use at the end of a word stem to search all possible endings of a word.

e.g., organization* will search organizational, organizations, organization...

e.g., manage* will search management, manager, manage, manages...

AND - Use between keywords or phrases when you want every result to include them.

e.g., "Organizational behavior" AND stress AND manage*

OR - Use between keywords or phrases when you don't care which term is included in a result, so long as at least one of them appears. This is most often used when you string together words of similar meaning to capture more search results, or if you aren't sure which research area to focus on.

e.g., diversity OR inclusion OR discrimination

e.g., stress OR strain OR "emotional distress"

(Parentheses) - To prevent misreading your search, use parentheses to enclose OR strings.

e.g., "management practices" AND (stress OR strain) AND (workplace OR employer OR organization)

NOT - Use to designate specific words or phrases you do NOT want included in your search results. Useful if you need to refine your search after getting too many irrelevant results.

e.g., stress AND (employer OR workplace OR organization) NOT diet