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Information Literacy Toolkit: Generating Search Terms

Generating keywords or search terms before conducting your search is a great way to save time, optimize your results, and become a more efficient searcher. Generating search terms is a dynamic process, which means that the first terms you come up with will most likely not be your last. You should continue to add to your list of keywords and phrases as you search. 

A good place to start brainstorming search terms is with your topic question: start by picking it apart, focusing on the words that represent the main idea. 


Topic Question: Do girls who consume more media have lower self-esteem and poor body image?

Main Idea Words: girls, media, "self-esteem", "body image"


Topic Question: Do college students who listen to classical music while they study have better test scores?

Main Idea Words: "college students", "classical music", "test scores", studying

When you have a search term/phrase that contains more than one word, you will need to put it inside quotation marks. This is to ensure that all of the words appear in the search results in their intended order and not individually or out of context. 

Potential searches might look like:

i.e. girls AND media AND "eating disorders"

i.e. "college students" AND "classical music" 

i.e. "test scores" AND "classical music"

Created by Oregon School Library Information System.