Search Strategies: Keywords

Building a Search Video

How to Build Your Search

You've learned about keywords and key phrases. You've learned how to choose synonyms. Now it's time to talk about putting all those different types of keywords to work in a search!  


Make a list of all your keywords!  (This includes key phrases and synonyms.)

There are many ways to "build" a search, but the easiest technique is to start small and build up.  This is called narrowing a search. Once you start your search, then you use the results you find to modify that search and continue building it, until you find what you want.


My topic is: The most popular young adult novels today have dystopian themes.

Keywords: "young adult"; novels, dystopian, popular

Synonyms: teen, teenage, books, stories, apocalyptic, "in demand", favorites

Are there more you would add? You might think of good synonyms that I missed! Go ahead and open another tab and go to and follow along!​


Search #1 "Young adult" dystopian I see a lot of results ABOUT dystopian fiction, but not about their popularity.  But that gives me a clue.  Fiction may be a good keyword!
Search #2 "young adult" dystopian fiction Similar results as my first search. but I'm not seeing sources about how popular it is.  Maybe I need to add popular to my search.
Search #3 "young adult" dystopian fiction popular Now my results are mostly about television, or film. The word fiction is not specific to books, so maybe I want to use novel instead, going back to my original keyword directly from my topic.
Search #4 "young adult" dystopian novel popular I see popular narratives, and more literary criticism, but I don't see results talking about the popularity of the novels.  A-ha! Popularity. Let's change popular to popularity.
Search #5 "young adult" dystopian novel popularity BINGO! I see several articles that specifically address the popularity of dystopian young adult novels!

See how I used my keywords and added them slowly, tweaking them one by one based on my results? That's how you "build" a search. Continue playing around with this.  Try changing "young adult" to teen, or novel to book. Think about the changes and how they modified your results.

You're Ready!

You're ready to search! Remember to pay close attention to each step you take. Following the pattern of the module, you'll start with keywords and key phrases, move on to synonyms, and then work with a search in Galileo.  I strongly recommend keeping a piece of paper with you, and using it to make notes about all the changes, additions, and modifications you make.

Searching is an art, not a science.  I can't give you the three rules for building that perfect search, but I can give you the tools you need to create your own!

Now take the graded quiz... you're well on your way to being an excellent researcher!

As always, if you are confused or need assistance, please contact your friendly neighborhood librarian. I'm here to help!

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