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BIO - Biology (WO)

Identify Keywords

To perform searches, you will need keywords.



Let's practice brainstorming keywords by looking at a sample topic...

Is dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane a carcinogen?

First we'll eliminate irrelevant words.  The databases will search for every word that you type into the search box, so try to keep your search simple - just a few words. 

Is dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane a carcinogen?

When you eliminate the irrelevant words from your research question, you should be able to spot major concepts.  The three major concepts in our example are cost, college and economy.

Now, let's take each of those and come up with as many synonyms (or related ideas) as we can.

Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane – DDT

Carcinogen – “cancer causing”, “cancer causing agent”, toxin, poison, mutagen, hazard

Create a Search Strategy

Next, combine any one of the keywords from each group using AND. 


1.      DDT AND carcinogen  

2.      "cancer causing" AND dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane

3.      dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane OR DDT AND "cancer causing agent"

Different combinations of search terms will give you very different results, so try several different search strategies to see which gives you the best results.

Narrow Your Focus

As you begin searching, you may find that your research question is too broad or narrow.  Research is an organic process and sometimes you have to change your original question.

How does dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane damage cells?

"Cells" is a bit vague, and we can narrow the focus to one aspect of cell biology.

How does DDT exposure impact cell division?