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Library Research 101: Identify Keywords and Search Options

Information Creation as a Process

Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences.

--- ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

Library of Congress Classifications

Library of Congress Classification System is used to organize our books. The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)  comprise a thesaurus (controlled vocabulary) of subject headings for use in bibliographic records, and work with LC classification system together to advance the catalog search options.

More Library Catalog Search Options

1. All journal titles owned by WSU are now listed in the HELM catalog.

2. Use the HELM Catalog to renew your books online.

3. Use the tab for Course Reserves in the catalog to see a list of what articles, books and videos your professors have put on reserve in the Library.

Tips of Finding Keywords

1. start with the background information, then identify the key concepts of the topic.

2. start a list of key words, then expand your list by thinking of related terms such as synonyms.

3. look at the important nouns and verbs, and evaluate if these words define the key concepts of your topic

4. look for relevant subject terms in the Thesaurus of databases.

Benefits of Keyword Search

  • Using keywords instead of whole sentences helps streamline the search process
  • Keyword search is a good substitute for a subject search when you do not know the standard subject heading.

Keyword(s) Search at Library Catalogs or Article Databases

  • Search keyword(s) in Basic/Advanced options to get results.
  • Search in Subject option to find out the relevant subject headings or subject terms.

Search Tips:

1. In Catalog, on the book's holdings information screen, scroll down and click on the subject heading link. This is the more precise terminology, and it's a way to bring together material related by concept, not just random keywords.

2. sort the results in publication date or title, etc.

3. refine your search terms by checking its synonyms.

4. In Databases, the left/right column usually lists the "refine/narrow your results" tools including subject terms.


Use quotation marks " " to search for phrases

BulletSearch:  "global warming"

Use a wild card *

Use * to search variant endings or spellings

* = any character(s)


Search: child*

Finds: child, children, childish, etc. an excellent source for help in narrowing or expanding your topic.

Look in the right menu for "related searches" to narrow or expand your search.