Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

MCOM 186: Media Inquiry (Feliciano Ortiz) Spring 2022-03 and -04

Keywords and Subject Terms

Before doing any research, it is important to know what words you will use to search for peer-reviewed articles.  Choosing the right words and search strategies can make all the difference, and it's important to remember that research is an exploratory process.  It is rare to find exactly what you are looking for on the very first try. It is a process that usually requires multiple searches using multiple keywords or subject terms.  It is very helpful to keep a list of your search terms!

Keywords ("any field" or "select a field") will search titles, subjects, tables of contents, and descriptions. 

Subject terms are standardized and will give you better, more specific results, and will only search the subject field.  To find subject terms for books, use the Library of Congress Subject Headings.  These will also give you narrower and broader terms.  Some databases have a thesaurus or index that provide subject terms

To get ideas for additional search terms, try the following:

  • Brainstorm synonyms, larger concepts, and narrower concepts
  • Check out background sources such as encyclopedias for additional terms
  • Look at the list of subject terms when you locate an article using the library's databases

Helpful Searching Tips

Helpful Searching Tips:

Boolean operators are words or symbols that are used in conjunction with words to refine searches. They can typically be used across most platforms, including specific databases like Academic Search Complete and Milne Search. Listed below are six common Boolean operators.

 

AND - narrows 

Ex: ADHD and boys (this narrows down our results to include only results with ADHD and boys) 

 

NOT - excludes

Ex: ADHD not boys (this narrows down our results to include items about ADHD excluding those that mention boys) 

 

OR - expands

Ex: boys or males or guys (this expands to search for multiple possible terms) 

 

* - expands 

Ex: motivat* (Asterisks are called wildcards. They expand a search by finding words that start with the same letters. In the example here, the search results would include such words as motivate, motivates, motivation, motivational, motivated, etc.)

 

"      " - exact phrase

Ex: "Lord of the Rings" (this pulls up results that are stated in the item exactly as written) 

 

(   ) - confines

Ex: (ADHD or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) AND (boys or guys or males)     

(this will instruct the database or search engine on what parts go together in your search phrase)