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Graduate Research Support: Searching Strategies

Gradaute Research Help

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Get lengthier and more specialized research help with our book an appointment service.

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Visit the Research Help Desk on the main floor of the Library for help.

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Workshops are scheduled throughout the term.

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How-to guides and videos on writing, research and citation 

Searching with Keywords

Keywords & Synonyms

1. Keywords are the most important words in your topic

  • Is the petroleum industry contributing to climate change in Canada?

= Petroleum industry 

= Climate change 

= Canada


2. Also think of other words or phrases related to your topic (Synonyms).

  • Climate change = global warming

  • Petroleum = oil

*A concept map can help you come up with related terms to your topic


3. Search again and again using different keywords! 


4. Use the limiters available like “Peer Reviewed” or “Date Range”


Keyword Search Example: 

example of keyword search Climate Change "Oil Production" Canada



Keyword Searching From Seneca Libraries (Open Captions)




Research Question: What are the effects of rising oil prices on the economy of Canada


Keyword 1: Oil prices Synonyms: Gas, gasoline, petroleum, fossil fuels, cost, expenses
Keyword 2: Economy Synonyms: Economic impact, financial impact
Keyword 3: Canada

Synonyms: There is no synonym for Canada, but you could

narrow your topic to a province like Alberta



Try It:

Research Question: "What motivates University students to complete online coursework?"


Keyword 1 Synonyms 
Keyword 2 Synonyms
Keyword 3 Synonyms


Advanced Search Techniques


Two word term or phrase searching "..."

When you have a two word keyword (like First Nations or Social Media) use quotation marks around the two words - "Social Media". This keeps the two words together in your search results. Otherwise you might get results that look for the two words separately and not sequentially. 


Limiters are your friend! 

Search Engines like the Library's Search Everything and our various subject databases have limiters on the search page and the results page. Limiters will allow you to limit your results to the type of resources (books, peer reviewed, newspapers etc), the publication date range, the subject area and the language of the resource, just to name a few. Always check out the limiters when searching. 

Let's try some searches 

Let's say you have a research essay on the benefits of exercise for older adults. 

Type the following keywords into the Search Everything Box below: 

  • "Older adults" exercise benefits 


Next try the same search using synonyms for the keywords:

  • "Elderly adults" "physical fitness" outcome



1. Was there a difference in titles ?

2. Were they still on the same topic? The benefits of exercise for older adults?  

Graduate Boolean Quiz