As you begin searching, take a moment to think about what words and phrases you will want to use in your searching.
My usual approach is to start very simply.
o Take a look at your topic. Pick out the main words, the keywords, and use these to begin searching.
o You might think of different ways to refer to the same topic (lawyer/attorney) (capital punishment/death penalty) (dog/canine). Think about alternative words or synonyms.
o As you start searching, keep an open mind for additional words and phrases and concepts that you might find along the way. Often when you actually start looking at your results, you’ll notice other related terms that could be options for further searching (an example would be subject terms - for more on this, see the box on the right).
o But at the beginning, keep it simple.
o Once you start seeing search results, then you can refine and adjust as needed. You can add additional terms, you can narrow by date, you can choose to see only certain types of sources, e.g. academic journals. The options vary depending on where you’re searching, but in general there are ways that you can increase or decrease your results, depending on what your needs are.
o Librarians can help with this. Feel free to ask.
What are subject terms?
Subject terms are standardized words and phrases that identify the key elements of the book or article – they identify the core of what the book or article is about.
How can they be useful?
A good way to use subject terms (sometimes called subjects or subject headings) is to use them to refine or focus your searching, or to find other materials on a specific topic.
How exactly do I use them?
I usually recommend that you begin with a keyword search. As detailed in the box on the left, begin your search with some of the key or primary terms in your research topic. Start browsing your search results. When you find a book or an article that is close to what you're looking for, look at the subject terms that are being used to describe the item. You can use these to find other items on the same topic - often the subject terms are clickable - you can click on them to find other items on that topic.
Sample subject terms: