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Information Literacy Research Skill Building: Search Terms Podcast

This guide contains information literacy instructional materials based on the ACRL Information Literacy Standards.

Search Terms Podcast

This podcast (accompanied by text) will illustrate how effective research only happens when you use the best search terms.

Search Terms Podcast Text

Save yourself search time using good search terms

You have chosen your research topic, and are ready to start finding books, magazine articles, and websites.

The first thing you need to do is choose your search terms. To do this you need to think about all the ways your authors may have talked about the topic.

The words that you do not use have just as much impact on your results as the words you do use.

Remember, computers are dumb machines. They see only strings of letters. If they do not see the string of letters you typed in, they will not give you the book, article, or website that may really fit your needs.

Let’s take an example:

You typed in bird flu, your author called it, bird influenza, so the machine did not see bird flu and did not give you this article.

So how do authors talk about bird flu? I have seen:

  • Bird Flu
  • Bird Influenza
  • Avian Flu
  • Avian Influenza
  • H5N1 Virus

See what I mean? Let’s look at another topic.

I’m writing a paper about the impacts of volcanic eruptions on the people of Hawaii. First, I think about the way my authors might talk about volcanic eruptions.

They might talk about:

  • Volcanoes Erupting
  • Volcano Activity
  • Volcanism in the Hawaiian Islands.

Or they might talk about specific volcanic features such as:

  • The Creation of Lava Tubes
  • Curtains of Fire

Now Hawaii, that seems simple. But my authors might have said:

  • Hawaii
  • Hawaiian Islands
  • The Big Island

He may have talked about:

  • The Kilauea Volcano
  • The Puʻu Nui
  • The activity at the Puʻu ʻŌʻō Vent

By making a list of words I can combine and recombine them till I find what I need. Using my list of words, I will now be able to find books that talk about:

  • Volcanoes Erupting on the Big Island of Hawaii
  • Volcanic Activity in the Kilauea Volcano
  • Curtains of Fire near the Puʻu ʻŌʻō Vent
  • Volcanism and the Hawaiian chain

Give this method a try next time you’re doing research, see if you get better results.


Good Searching

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