An Online Tutorial Taking You Through the Steps of the Library Research Process Keyword Searching

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Tutorial Contents:
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  3. Size & Shape of Information
  4. Most Bang for Your Buck
  5. Trying it on for Size
  6. Don't Shoplift!

Before computers, keyword searching was non-existent, but now it is the most common search method used.  In fact, search engines like Google only allow keyword searching.  You probably use keyword searching all the time and don't even know it!

Keyword searching is a method for searching online databases and Internet search engines that allows the user to enter their own words or phrases to describe their topic.  The database or search engine will then search the contents of its database to match and display all records that contain those words or phrases. 

Keyword searching does not take into account words that have multiple meanings.  For example a search for turkey (the bird) will also return results about Turkey (the country).  For this reason, keyword searching works best with unambiguous terms.

It is also important to be aware that a keyword search in one database is not always equivalent to a keyword search in another database.  For example, a keyword search in the ProQuest database searches every word including the citation, abstract and any full-text articles.  A keyword search in Ebsco's Academic Search Premier database searches only the citation and abstract, not full-text articles. 

If you are searching for multiple terms or phrases, you must develop a search statement in order to perform an effective keyword search in a database.  The next page will take you through the steps of constructing your search strategy.


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