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Selecting KeyWords & Concepts
Broadening/Narrowing Vocabulary



Selecting Key Words and Concepts

Prepare for searching by identifying the central concepts in your research question.

Computers are programmed to match strings of characters and spaces and do not often understand the natural language we use with each other. They can't guess what you mean, don't "read" subtexts, and are easily confused by ambiguity, so clarify for them what you will be looking for. Focus only on essential concepts.

"media coverage of 9/11"

Media cover events. Unless the media caused the event, this term is unnecessary.

advantages of home schooling over public schools

Value words like "favorite," "advantage," or "better" are not useful if you need to gather evidence to help you make a decision or develop a solution. Don't just grab an opinion or the "right" answer off someone else's shelf.

dissertations about bioethics

Many databases and search engines are programmed to ignore common words that don't impact a search. These are called "stopwords" and typically include terms like "the," "from," "about," "when," etc.�

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Tip to remember:

Many words have different meanings in different contexts. For example, Muhammad Ali was a boxer. The Boxer Rebellion took place in China. Give the computer enough information to tell the difference.