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Research Tips and Tricks

Major Terms

When searching for resources, DO NOT enter the whole research question. 

Unlike a Google search, a journal article database cannot sort through all the words, and the results will be all over the place, or you will get no results.

The best method is to create a search strategy using keywords.

Begin by examining your research question to determine the major concepts or words with a specific meaning. These terms will form the basis of your search. 

When picking keywords avoid all minor words ("a," "an," or "the"), and prepositions or verb phrases ("on," "in," or "going to").

Also, use verbs (action words) and adjectives (descriptive words) sparingly.

Keywords Example

For example, if your research question is: 

Does playing video games increase the chance that children will be violent?

Words such as (does, the, that, chance, will, and be) don't have a specific meaning, so we can cross them out.

Does playing video games increase the chance that children will be violent?

"Playing" is an action verb to describe what someone does with the game, and since there aren't other options, we can also cross this word off.

Does playing video games increase the chance that children will be violent?

While "increase" is getting at the relationship between violence and video games, if you include it, you will prejudice the results because you will be excluding results that talk about video games decreasing violence. 


Does playing video games increase the chance that children will be violent?


In the end, we are left with three major concepts in the sentence are: 

Video Games



Now you can develop these concepts into search terms that you can use do develop your search strategy.




A variety of words may describe your keywords, so you should brainstorm possible synonyms for them. 

For example, children and youth are two different words used to describe a similar concept (human beings under the age of 18). 

If you only entered the term "children" into a search of a database, then you would miss all the articles that deal with "youth." 
To maximize the number of results you will get in a search, you need to include synonyms.

Here is a list of possible synonyms of the keywords we identified:

Video Games






Call of Duty



First person shooting 



Left for dead





If you need help generating synonyms for your keywords, try a few searches and look at the language the papers use or look at a thesaurus.

Source and Source

Tools To Help

Videos About Keywords