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EES1134: Climate Change Policy

Keywords Matter

Ask yourself three questions:

  1. What is my topic?
  2. What are the key aspects of this topic?
  3. What are alternate keywords for each aspect?

Brainstorm keywords to use in your search. Pick words that represent each key aspect of your topic (see below for an example).

This process can be challenging. The same idea can be expressed in many ways. To ensure the best results when searching, brainstorm several keywords whenever possible.

Generate a Search Strategy with Keywords

Step 1. Describe your topic:
Can green roofs help cities respond to climate change? (case study inspiration)
Step 2: Identify key concepts for your topic:
Main Concept 1 Concept 2          Concept 3       
green roof(s) cities climate change
Step 3: Find synonyms or related keywords for each concept:
Main Concept 1 Concept 2          Concept 3       
green roof(s) cities climate change
living roof(s) city global warming
rooftop garden(s) urban  
rooftop park(s)    
vegetated roof(s)    
eco-roof(s) (etc.) (etc.)
Step 4: Build a search strategy from your list of keywords:

(Main Concept 1 + OR'd synonyms) AND (Main Concept 2 + OR'd synonyms) AND (Main Concept 3 + OR'd synonyms)


("green roof" OR "living roof" OR "rooftop garden" OR "rooftop park" OR "vegetated roof" OR "eco-roof") AND (cities OR city OR urban) AND ("climate change" OR "global warming")

Once you've decided what you're going to search for, you can then decide where you're going to search for it.

Choose Keywords

List keywords that relate each concept in your research (use a thesaurus, course readings, or lecture notes for ideas).

Keyword Searching Tips

Keyword searching is essentially taking your best guess at the terms which will appear in articles that are about your topic.  This can be a very effective way of searching.  However, you may get a number of irrelevant results because the keywords you chose may appear in irrelevant articles.  You also never know if you've found all the article on your topic. 

Tip: The next time you're using a library catalogue/database or looking at a book or article, take note of the author defined keywords or keywords and subject headings used then try using those terms in your next search.

Build Your Search Using Boolean Logic

Boolean logic is the fancy language databases use to search. Boolean operators connect your keywords together.

The three basic boolean operators are: AND, OR, and NOT.