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Research Process

This tutorial aims to help develop effective library research skills and critical thinking skills in all courses at Prince George's Community College.

Different Search Strategies

Learn what strategies work best for searching the open web, your library catalog, and subscription databases.
This video was created by ProQuest.


Learning basic search strategies is the key to effectively and efficiently searching the online catalog, online databases, and the Web.

The first step is to identify the keywords that are the most important in defining the topic.


Using a research database is different than using an online search engine, like Google. For this type of search you might copy and paste the research question in the search box and click on "search". You might get some good results that are related to your question or you might not. 

Research databases do not work that way. Databases use keywords when you do your search, which is why it is so important to have a good selection before starting your research.

So, what is a keywordClick "Show Answer" to see the response. (This activity requires Adobe Flash Player.)


These websites provide further explanation of keywords and how to find them:


Not all authors use the same terms when they write. One author can refer to one concept by one word, while another uses another word. Having synonyms for your keywords will improve your results when you search the databases by not restricting yourself to one word.


Let's say you have the following assignment: Identify and analyze the theme for Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado". One popular theme for this short story is revenge. One article may refer to the word revenge, while another may use the word retribution. These two words are synonyms. By using both of them as keywords, you'll get more results in your search.  

But, what is a synonym? Click "Show Answer" to see the response. (This activity requires Adobe Flash Player.)


Now that you know about synonyms, how do you find them? A thesaurus is a great source for finding synonyms. Like dictionaries and encyclopedias, thesauruses can be general or subject specific. 

So, what is a thesaurus? Click "Show Answer" to see the response. (This activity requires Adobe Flash Player.)