Developing a strong search strategy can save you time when it is time to search for resources. Rather than doing general searching using Google, we recommend that you search using the library databases. Searching Google is much different than searching library databases.
One facet of database searching that can be difficult to get used to is subject heading or keyword searches. Rather than typing a question in and expecting instant results, users need to focus on identifying and using controlled language searches.
Identifying controlled language for subject headings and keywords is beneficial for the savvy researcher. Controlled language is typically assigned by the Library of Congress and is then used universally (or at least in English) by vendors and publishers when identifying main points and ideas for their books, journals and other publications.
Once the controlled language for your topic is identified, database searching is usually much easier.
Language used on websites by various entities can often be arbitrary and inconsistent.
Professor McCormick has provided a list of ideas to use in identifying a specific topic.
You can begin brainstorming ideas or even begin searching using keywords from these thoughts.
Just using the phrases listed above, you can easily locate the vocabulary used to describe these ideas. Here are some samples:
|Keyword||Subject||What it means|
|Empowerment||Self-efficacy||The belief that people can bring about desired changes through their own efforts.|
The political concept of freedom, including freedom from excessive government authority, imprisonment, and slavery.
|Theologies of liberation||Liberation Theology||Works on the Christian, especially Catholic, theology primarily developed in Latin America which which argues that the church should use political efforts to eliminate poverty, discrimination and other forms of injustice in society, especially for the oppressed poor of Third World countries.|
If you're really not sure where to start, begin by doing keyword searches, making careful note of subject headings and other phrases and keywords in book and article records.
Once you see a subject heading that you think would be useful to use as a basis or central idea for searching, click on that subject heading on the record. This will redo your search and pull up only items that have that subject heading as the central theme for the book or article, rather than just as a secondary or incidental idea. You can then use keywords to refine your search. If you want to focus on a particular geographic area, try using the country or regional name as a keyword: Panama, Central America, Latin America, Asia, Laos, etc.