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Basics of Library Skills

Choosing search terms

One common problem in looking for information is coming up with the right search words. The first ones that come to mind may return hundreds of sources or none at all. For example, only a couple of publications were found using the search word “crisis companies” in LUC-Finna but using “crises” and “companies” the search returned quite a few sources. It is well worth investing some time in thinking of appropriate search words. Think of what the core of your topic is and the things that you want more information on. What you want to do is determine the key concepts relating to the subject you are doing a search on, as well as a number of alternative terms and synonyms. A search using two or three key terms is good starting point.

In library databases, the content of publications is described using thesaurus terms (keywords). These are chosen to give the best possible description of what a publication deals with. This helps those looking for information to search for it using the correct terms. Often the name of a publication alone is not enough to describe its content. In the work used in the example below, “Towards a Better Future”, the title gives no indication that the work deals with Nordic cooperation and thus the database contains a number of keywords describing the content of the work. If keywords are not used when searching for information, the search will only return publications whose name contains the search words, and a great deal of essential information will be overlooked. Please note that in LUC-Finna keywords can be viewed by clicking the name of the publication. They are in the Subjects field.

The keywords you use should be limited to the terms in the thesauri. For example, the databases EbscoHost and ProQuest include thesauri. When using these resources, it is a good idea to “speak their language” and use the terms given in their thesauri.

Hint! When you have found a good work related to your topic, check the keywords used with it. This might provide you with new, good search terms. To make your searches as comprehensive as possible it is often a good idea to combine ordinary words with terms from thesauri.