Using keywords

No matter what the resource or where it is, taking some time to think about keywords can really help you refine your search.

When you're looking for information using search engines, online catalogues and databases, there are a few simple techniques that will help you find what you need:

  • search for two or three words that relate to the same topic
  • don't include small words like ‘at', ‘a', ‘in', ‘of', ‘the', etc.
  • use complex keywords and phrases

If you were researching women's early efforts to get the vote in Victoria, you could try:

  • women vote
  • women suffrage
  • women vote Victoria
  • vote vida goldstein.

A good way to get more targeted results is to use a general word like 'women' with a more specific word like a place or person's name.

  • use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase, such as a title or a person's name
  • brainstorm search terms for a general topic by using categories (e.g. people, places, events, cities)

If you were studying the history of the Port Phillip settlement you might use:

  • people – John Batman, John Pascoe Fawkner
  • places – Port Phillip, Sullivan Bay
  • events – Batman's treaty, Separation
  • try using the ‘advanced search' or ‘construct a search' functions to focus your results
  • look at any subject headings listed in a catalogue - they take you to other books on the same topic.
If you're not getting enough results, use fewer search words. If you're getting too many results, use more words.