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REL 023A: What is the Bible? - Clark (Fall 2017)

Keyword Search - Introduction

Keywords : Words/terms that represent the main points/ideas of a topic -  the most significant words in a topic, book or article. Keywords are used when searching databases and library catalogs as well as search engines on the Web.

Keyword searching finds words anywhere in the database record - in the title, subject headings, author's name, etc. It's important to use the most important (or, "key") words in your topic, to get the most relevant results.

Identify Key Concepts
Write down your research question and circle or underline the words or terms that express the main idea/s.

Develop a List of Search Terms and Related Terms

  • For each idea/concept, brainstorm a list of keywords that best describe your research question.
  • Think of synonyms, as well as broader and narrower terms for each keyword.


Depending on the database, you may need to make your search more general or more specific.

Book titles are often quite general, and usually it is not possible to search the contents of the book.
In the Library Catalog, search terms may need to be more general.

Journal and newspaper article titles tend to be much more specific, so in an article database, you might have to adjust your search and add more specific search terms.

Book comparing the flood story in the Bible and Mesopotamian mythology:  Noah's Flood: the Genesis Story in Western Thought

Journal article title about the same topic which is quite specific:  "New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis"

Use a Keyword Search

  • ANDnarrow your search down by combining two or more terms. All terms must be present.
    Example: genesis and sexuality

    OR - broaden your search by combining synonyms or alternative forms of words. Any of the words must be present. Write down any commonly used alternatives to/synonyms for your search terms and connect them with or
    Example: sexuality or gender

  • NOT - excludes terms from a search; narrows and focuses a search   Example: christian  not catholic

  • TRUNCATION (aka wildcard) - symbol used at the end of a word or rootword to retrieve variant word endings, including plurals; adds flexibility and depth to your search; makes a search more efficient by cutting down on the number of searches.    Example: religio* retrieves: religion, religous, religions, etc.
    Many (not all) databases use the * as the truncation symbol. Check the online Help in each database to find which symbol is used.

  • Put the search together. Make your search more efficient by using the "and"   "or" connectors in one search.