6.6 – Search Terms

Learning Objectives

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:

  • describe why creating good search terms is important,
  • identify different strategies for creating effective search terms.


Watch Generating search terms – Introduction on YouTube (1 min)

How Effective Search Terms Help

Watch Generating search terms – How can this help me? on YouTube (1 min)

Generating Search Terms I

Generating Search Terms I (Text version)

What are the advantages of having effective search terms?

  1. They improve my search results
  2. They help me explore my topic
  3. They make my project more interesting
  4. All of these answers are correct.

Check your Answer: [1]

The Research Process

Watch Generating search terms – The searching process on YouTube (1 min)

Generating Search Terms II

Generating Search Terms II (Text version)

Once I have chosen my topic, I should not change it while I’m searching for sources. True or false?

Check your Answer: [2]

Identify Main Ideas

Watch Generating search terms – Identify main ideas on YouTube (1 min)

Generating Search Terms III

Generating Search Terms III (Text version)

After you have written a topic sentence/question, which of the following should you do FIRST when brainstorming search terms?

  1. Search your library website to find results.
  2. Pick out the words from your topic sentence/question that represent the main ideas.
  3. Search the internet to find results.
  4. Formulate your thesis.

Check your Answer: [3]

Brainstorming Search Words

Watch Generating search terms – Brainstorming on YouTube (1 min)

Generating Search Terms IV

Generating Search Terms IV (Text version)

What is one reason why brainstorming search terms is important?

  1. Articles on the same topic always use the same terms.
  2. You can’t use the same terms to search library databases that you use to search the internet.
  3. Authors with different viewpoints will use different terms to describe the same topic.
  4. None of these are correct.

Check your Answer: [4]

Synonyms and Related Words

Watch Generating search terms – Summary of related ideas on YouTube (1 min)

Generating Search Terms V

Generating Search Terms V (Text version)

Brainstorming search terms…

  1. tells me everything I need to know about my topic.
  2. answers my research question.
  3. is a waste of time.
  4. gives me helpful starting points for further searching.

Check your Answer: [5]


Contact your library.

For further information on this topic:

  • The Learning Portal by College Libraries Ontario. The Writing Hub – Choose a Topic.

Attribution & References

This chapter (text, H5P activities and embedded videos) was adapted from “Generating Search Terms” In Niagara College Libraries + Learning Commons Information Skills Online Handbook by Jackie Chambers Page and Siscoe Boschman, licensed under CC BY 4.0. Adaptations include updates for improved accessibility. Attributions noted for this chapter’s videos were noted in a final video, which have been transcribed into text below for consistency and “Credits” video removed.

References & Credits used in videos on this page.

    • Horse rider photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/544ZtqLDJ98
    • Wrench photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash. Available at https://unplash.com/photos/lt2GzPIOAmc
    • Transcription by The drawing is signed, ‘Electrical World, N.Y.’ [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Transcription_using_cylinder_photograph.png
    • The difference between a hurricane a cyclone and a typhoon, by allispossible.org.uk. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commerical 2.0 Generic license (CCB-NC 2.0). Cropped from original. Available at https://flic.kr/p/hvoJdg
    • More questions than answers, by Tom Waterhouse. Used under a Creative commons Attribution Non-Commerical 2.0 Generic license (CC by-NC 2.0). Available at https://flic.kr/p/b6WaSP

  1. d. Effective search terms will give you all of these advantages.
  2. False. Searching may lead you to discover new things about your topic. Feel free to change and adapt your topic as you search.
  3. b. You should start listing words that represent the main ideas in your research topic/question.
  4. c. Authors may use different terms to talk about the same subject, so it's important to have a list of similar words to try.
  5. d. Brainstorming search words will save you time and help you research more successfully.


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6.6 - Search Terms Copyright © 2022 by Jen Booth, Emily Cramer & Amanda Quibell, Georgian College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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