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Create a Keyword List

The right keywords help to effectively search catalogs, databases, and the Internet.

-- Start by compiling a list of keywords that represent each concept of your topic.


-- Try the Search Generator from Northwest Missouri State University to create a keyword list.


-- Use more specific terms when searching databases versus catalogs.


-- Look for more terms in your search results. Add these to your list.


-- Search Google Books for keywords in the title, table of contents, subject headings, and text of books.


-- Use the Library of Congress Authorities and Vocabularies thesaurus to find variations of keywords and subject headings.

Writing Center

The goal of the Writing Center is to help students become better students by modifying the way they think about reading and writing for college purposes.

The Writing Center is staffed by PPCC faculty, instructors, professional tutors, and peer tutors.

Services include: 

  • one-on-one assistance with composition, critical reading, critical thinking and study skills
  • tutoring in-person, via Skype, or email
  • locations at all campuses

Keyword Searching

Use the Search Generator from Northwest Missouri State University to help you create a keyword search. 

                        Using AND/OR/NOT (Boolean Search Operators)


Use AND to focus search and combine different aspects of your topic.

Example: vegetarianism and environment

Use OR to expand your search and find synonyms/related terms.

Example: global warming or climate change


Use NOT to exclude a word or phrase from your search

Example: emissions trading not United States


Additional Search Tips

"Phrase search"  - Use quotation marks (" ") to search for a particular phrase.

Example: "greenhouse gas emissions"

Truncation * - Use an asterisk to find variations of a word. Put an asterisk following the root of the word to find all variations of that word, including singular and plural.

Example: environment* (finds environments, environmental, environmentalist, etc.)

(Grouping/Nesting Keywords) - Use parentheses ( ) as a way to group all your search terms together.

Example: (climate change or global warming) and population growth

Google: It's Good for Finding Keywords

A Google search of your topic is a fast way to find keywords. Look through the results list to find related terms.


Keyword Thesaurus

Use keyword variations.

Words change over time. Today we say Civil War but, in the past, it has been called the

  • American Civil War
  • War between the States
  • War of Secession
  • War of the Rebellion

If you searched only the term Civil War, you might miss valuable documents written during a different era.

The Library of Congress Authorities and Vocabularies thesaurus will help you find variations of keywords and subject headings. 

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