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ENG 104: Emily Scalzo

Break your topic into keywords

As you begin your search, you will need to find keywords to represent your case study topic. Let's try an example: 

Topic: What are the effects of sleep on academic performance for college students?

Choose the important concepts to use as keywords.

What are the effects of sleep on academic performance for college students?

Try a search with these simplified keywords. 

Let's try Academic Search Premier: 

Here is our initial search:

Screenshot showing a search with keywords sleep, academic performance, and college students.

Improve your search

After your initial search, take a look at the results. Do any interest you? One technique is to use a good search result to improve your search. For example, here is a result from our original search:

Search result showing list of related Subjects.  

Take a look at the Subjects. These are terms the database uses to categorize articles, so they are often helpful search terms. Right away, you may notice a few things:

  • The database does use our search term college students
  • There are a few synonyms we may want to try for 'academic performance,' including Academic Achievement and Grade Point Average

With this in mind, we can improve the search, adding synonyms from other article results and our own brainstorming. 

Improved search showing the use of alternate terms connected by 'or' and quotation marks around phrases.


AND "academic performance" or "academic achievement" or "grade point average" or gpa

AND "college students" or "university students" or undergraduates

Search tips:

  • Separate synonyms or alternate forms of the keyword with 'or.' This guides the databases search to locate articles with either term included.
  • Keep exact phrases together with quotation marks ""
  • Try several searches before you are satisfied with your results
  • Use your results to improve your search terms

Video: Example search in Academic Search Premier

Search in OneSearch

Just to review, here is our topic:

Topic: What are the effects of sleep on academic performance for college students?

The OneSearch discovery search box on the University Libraries homepage offers the option to search through the majority of library databases and collections at once.

To use the most search options, select Advanced Search under the OneSearch search box on the University Libraries homepage

On the Advanced Search page, you may try a variety of searches. Let's try using the same terms that we used in Academic Search Premier.

Screenshot showing OneSearch advanced search screen with keywords and alternate keywords.

On the search results page, limit the results to the items that interest you most by using the filters to the left, including full text online, content type, and publication date.


Video: Search using OneSearch