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INRW 0302 | Integrated Reading and Writing

Searching with Keywords

The most important thing to realize about the databases is that they do not work like Google:

Google interprets. Databases match.

Google is great at interpreting your search terms! You can type whole questions or search phrases into Google and get millions of results.

Take a look at this one, a popular argument paper topic, technology is destroying society. Google that, and you get over 11 million hits:

 That same thing in Academic Search Complete?

No results. What's going on?

It does not mean there are not articles in the database about technology and its effect on society, only that we are not searching for them the right way.

Whenever you type something into the database and hit search, the database looks for articles that match what you typed. So in the example above, the database is looking for an article that saysexactly, "technology is destroying society," and it can't find one.

So what is the solution? Think in keywords!

Pick out the most important words or phrases about your topic. What words do experts use about your topic? Is there more than one word or phrase for the same concept?Searching Google or Wikipedia for your topic can be a good way to come up with keywords.

Need help with keywords? Contact a librarian, or try this UT Libraries tool to help you brainstorm keywords.

No one combination of keywords will bring you back everything on a topic. You may have to do several searches in the database using different combinations of keywords to make sure you're not missing some resources.

For this topic, our most important keywords are technology and society. But those words are too general - we want specific words!

In this example, you could brainstorm specific types of technologies (Internet, social media, cell phones, texting, etc.), specific ways they negatively affect society (distraction, low grades, car accidents, cyberbullying, etc.), and specific segments of society they may affect (students, teenagers, children, etc.).

Tips for Searching the Databases

Maximize your search results by searching multiple databases at once.

  •  You can search more than one of our databases from EBSCO at the same time. Open one of the databases and click on the 'Choose Databases' link above the search box:

  • Then check off the boxes for the databases you'd like to search:


Limit your search results to full text articles

  • These databases contain citations and full-text results. A citation will only be a little bit of information about an article or book, but it won't give you the full resource itself. By checking the Full Text check box under the Limit your Results section, you'll be getting the full thing every time.
  • Remember, though, anything that you can't get in full text through the databases, we can get through Interlibrary Loan for free! Contact a librarian if you'd like something through interlibrary loan. Articles take about 2-14 days, and books take about 1-4 weeks, so start your research early.

Try an Advanced Search to combine different search terms and keywords

  • There won't be any perfect combination of search terms that will get you every resource we have on a topic. Therefore, you should use the Advanced Search screen to search for different combinations of search terms and keywords. You may have to perform several different searches. In this example, I've combined texas and folklore to find articles that contain both of those terms:

  • You can come up with alternate keywords and synonyms by looking at the Subject: Thesaurus Term menu that you'll find on the left on your search results page. In this example, I've learned that oral tradition or culture could be alternate terms for folklore.| Central Library: 281-476-1850 | Generation Park Campus: 281-998-6150 x8133 | North Library: 281-459-7116 | South Library: 281-998-6150 ext. 3306