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Language Advancement and Professional Development Institute

Create your Search Strategy

Brainstorm keywords to use in your search. Pick words that represent key aspects of your topic. This can be tricky as the same idea can be expressed in many ways. To ensure best results when searching, brainstorm several keywords whenever possible.

Ask the following questions:

  • What is my topic?
  • What are the key aspects of this topic?
  • What are alternate keywords for each aspect?

Example: Does neuroticism impact academic performance?

Key aspects of this topic

  • neuroticism AND academic performance

Alternate keywords for each aspect

Neurotic can be expressed in several ways such as:

  • compulsive
  • distraught
  • disturbed
  • manic
  • obsessive

Use your course readings and lecture notes to brainstorm keywords. For example, one of the personality tests tells us that "neuroticism" has several different aspects, and these aspects can be used as keywords. For example:

  • anxiety
  • anger
  • depression
  • self-consciousness
  • immoderation
  • vulnerability 

If you are unsure of other ways to express a concept, look up synonyms in a thesaurus, like

What are alternate keywords for "academic performance"?

Use AND and OR operators to Search

My topic: Does neuroticism impact academic performance? 

Key aspects of the topic: neuroticism AND academic performance


Enter the keywords we brainstormed on the last page into the advanced search using AND/OR.

OR links related keywords together, AND adds another set of keywords to the search

neuroticism OR anxiety OR depression OR anger


academic performance OR academic achievement 



Check your spelling!  The database will not work if you've spelled any of your keywords incorrectly.