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ESL 015: Composition for American Academic Communication

Keyword Searching

Before you begin searching for sources, identity keywords based on your topic, research question, or argument.

  • Sample topic: Should police be required to wear body cameras to reduce the amount of police violence?
  • Sample keywords: police and body cameras
  • Sample topic: Does healthy eating improve college students' academic performance?
  • Sample keywords: college students and healthy eating

Try a test search using your keywords. If you get too many or too few results, try changing your keywords. You may need to broaden or narrow your topic.

  • Too broad: police brutality
  • Too narrow: use of body cameras to reduce racial profiling by police in urban areas

For a comparison/contrast essay, don't use the words compare or contrast in your search. If your essay is comparing the health benefits of karate and tai chi, search for each element individually:

  • Karate and health benefits
  • Tai chi and health benefits

Need help finding the right keywords? Ask a librarian!