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English 101: Keywords and Search Terms

This guide will help English 101 students with library research

What is a keyword?

 A keyword is a simple term, or word, that is used to explore what results a source can provide on a topic. 

 Different sources will provide different results using the same word. 

 If a keyword doesn't "unlock" the results you want, try another!

(image from the Noun Project)

Using AND/OR/NOT to enhance your search

Using "Boolean Operators" AND, OR, NOT can create more specific search terms. 

  • They can combine 2 or more ideas into a single search.
  • They are used to help <broaden> or >narrow<  your search.
  • Here are some examples:

OR = more        


Use OR with synonyms or similar search terms.  Each record in the results must include AT LEAST ONE of the terms

AND = less         


Use AND to combine search terms for different concepts. Each record in the results must include BOTH terms

NOT = don't include              


Use NOT to eliminate words that you DON'T want to show up in your results

Example of keywords organized into concepts

This form shows an example of how to identify, combine, and use different terms to make an effective search. You can use the link below to print your own form.

Click on the link above for a blank keyword form.

SEARCH TIP: Using quotation marks


  • Use "quotation marks" around phrases to help the database search more accurately.
  • By using quotation marks you are asking to only search those words together and not separately.

For example:  "factory farms", "industrial waste", "young adults", "service animals", "social media"

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