Keyword Search Technique

Due date


If you are using sources in your argument essay, you might be wondering what terms you should use to find information in online databases. Your university’s database is usually the best place to find credible sources. Follow the steps below to create an idea map that can help guide your search.  


Step 1: Write or your research question at the top of a blank page. Your research question is the question your thesis statement will answer. For an argument essay, the research question encourages taking a stand on a specific issue.  

For example, “What are the most likely origins of COVID-19?,” is a question that could be answered with facts. By contrast, “what does COVID-19 reveal about the inequities inherent in our healthcare system in the US?” is a research question that prompts one to take a stand. The answer to the second question is arguable.  


Step 2: List at least four keywords/terms from the research question that could be used as search terms. From the example above, one might identify the following terms: 

  • COVID-19
  • US healthcare system
  • Health equity
  • Healthcare disparities 


Step 3: Consider how to narrow these search terms by making them more specific. For example,  

  • COVID-19 and inequality
  • US healthcare system and inequality
  • Health equity in the US
  • Healthcare disparities for COVID-19 patients 


Step 4: Try your search terms. Track how many “hits” you get for each. Determine which terms yield the most relevant sources. Refine your search terms and repeat the search process in multiple databases.  

A note about Wikipedia: An internet search on your topic is likely to return a Wikipedia entry. Though Wikipedia entries can be changed at any time by any internet user, they can still be useful for research purposes. Check Wikipedia entries on your topic for a list of additional keywords and references. Navigate to .edu, .org, .gov, or otherwise credible sources listed as references. Evaluate these sources to see if they might be useful to you. If this strategy leads you to academic journal articles, check your university’s library to access. 


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