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.

Fullerton College Library

Research 101: Identifying Search Terms

Getting Started With Research at Fullerton College Library

Identifying Search Terms from a Research Question

#1 - Identify the main ideas in your research question or thesis statement to be tested.

#2 - Jot down similar, related, broader, and narrower terms for the main ideas.

#3 - Apply search terms using the advanced search option (the link is under the basic search box). 

Click through the slides below for examples:

Search Tip Cheat Sheet

decorative

 

Ways to Narrow and Broaden Your Searches

 

NARROW results BROADEN results

Adding new concepts with AND connector

food waste ] AND consumer education ]

Adding similar or related concepts with OR connector 

recycling OR reusing ]

Search for terms in SUBJECT or TITLE

 [ food industrial waste ] in [ SU Subject Terms ]

Search for terms in ALL TEXT

[ "centralized composting" ] in [ TX All Text ]

Search for multiple words as a phrase with " "

"consumer education"

Search for all variant endings of a word with the symbol

recycl* searches for: recycle, recycled, recycling

Apply database limiters to group results by a particular:

DATE RANGE

SOURCE or PUBLICATION TYPE

SUBJECT (what article is about)

DISCIPLINE (jstor)

GEOGRAPHY

DELETE a search term to widen focus

 composting instead of [ centralized composting ]

 

Replace a search term with a BROADER term

social media ] instead of [ facebook ]

Identifying Search Terms from a General Topic

If you are starting your research with a general topic instead of a specific question, consider narrowing your focus by one or more of the following:

  • aspect of the topic 
  • examining the relationship between that and something else 
  • location (e.g., california, high schools)
  • population (e.g., children, college students, men, nurses)
  • racial or cultural group (e.g., african americans, lgbtq+)
  • academic perspective (e.g., psychology, legal, economic, social)

Examples for the topic: mental health

  • aspect of the topic: depression or anxiety
  • relationship between: how discrimination impacts one's mental health
  • racial or cultural group: LGBTQ+

Possible search terms and similar terms:

  • mental health or depression or anxiety
  • discrimination or prejudice
  • lgbtq 

Applied in an advanced search:

screenshot of search

Note: brackets represent search bars

[ mental health or depression or anxiety ]

AND [ discrimination or prejudice ]

AND [ lgbtq ]