How do I structure a keyword search?

Before you embark on your database search, take a few moments to identify keywords, which will be a timesaver for you. Some things to try:

  • Write down any research questions you have about your topic; these should be open-ended (starting with How...? or Why...?)

  • Identify the key concepts from your research question (look at the nouns)

  • Write down synonyms for those key concepts

Taking a few minutes to think about and identify some keywords before starting your search will help you search more efficiently, which will save you time (and frustration).

  • Identify important concepts from your research question (look for nouns)
  • Brainstorm some synonyms (to help you find more information)
  • Keep track of useful terms you discover during research and add those to your set of keywords

Ex. research question: How is Ayurvedic medicine a useful intervention for heart conditions?

(Identify the keywords in this research question)

"How is Ayurvedic medicine a useful intervention for heart conditions?

Ayurvedic intervention heart conditions
Ayurveda treatment hypertension
hatha yoga therapy cardiovascular

Tips on searching the databases

Here are some general tips on searching for articles for your report:

Tip Examples
Use keywords, not long search phrases

Instead of searching for "How is Ayurvedic medicine a useful intervention for heart conditions?" break down your search into the main keywords:

Ayurveda, Ayurvedic medicine, health, heart, cardiovascular, hypertension, India, phytotherapy, hatha yoga,  massage

Use quotation marks (" ") to keep phrases together

Use AND to combine different keywords

"massage therapy" AND Ayurveda 
Use OR to combine similar/associated keywords Ayurveda AND (culture or ethnography)
Look for ways to limit your search in the database You can often limit by type of article (scholarly and peer-reviewed), year of publicationsubject