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Science Technology: Keywords & searching tips

The Key to Keywords

The Key to Keywords

When you type a word into OneSearch or Google to find information, the words you search with are called 'keywords'. Think of it this way: keywords are the key to unlocking the information you need.

The video below explains more about keywords, and we have some keyword tips further down the page.

Keyword Tips

Keyword Tips

Finding the right keyword to use can be hard - but we're here to help!

Here are some tips to remember when you try a search.

Don't write out the whole assignment question as a search!

You need to pick keywords to use as search terms.

Look it up!

Not sure what a word in your assignment means? Look it up! Google it, use, or find a dictionary in the library. You can also ask a tutor, or someone at the Library Desk.

Watch your spelling!

You're probably used to Google correcting your spelling when you search, but not everywhere you search will be able to do that. OneSearch will try to guess what you mean, but the Wintec Library Catalogue, the individual databases, and the ebook collections won't find anything if you don't spell your search correctly. (You can always use Google to find the correct spelling if you're stuck!)

Watch out, too, for British/NZ and American spellings. Here are some examples:

  • color (American) and colour (British/NZ)
  • behavior (American) and behaviour (British/NZ)
  • favorite (American) and favourite (British/NZ)
  • pediatric (American) and paediatric (British/NZ)
  • celiac (American) and coeliac (British/NZ)


You don't have to use the exact words in your assignment question. Synonyms are words that mean the same thing. In the video, Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, so we can search using both words. Sometimes one word might be more academic, and another word might be more informal. A word like Acculturation is more academic. Culture shock is more informal, but they both talk about the same thing.

Synonyms can be really useful when trying to find the right keywords for your search. If you don't know any synonyms for your subject, don't worry! You can always check a thesaurus, and often your results page (or the Wikipedia page on your subject) will help you find other related words. Use OR between words when searching if they have a similar meaning. Your search will pick up all references to them then. 

Note: 'Antonyms' are the OPPOSITE of a word. Synonyms have the SAME meaning.

Keep trying!

Use different keywords in different combinations to see what works best to find you the right information.

Use keywords everywhere!

Use keywords on the Library Catalogue, on Google, on Google scholar, and in the databases and for ebooks too.

Remember to use "  " around phrases like "culture shock".

To search two or more words right next to each other, as a phrase, you need to use "  " . Otherwise the search will find the word 'culture' and the word 'shock' which may have nothing to do with the subject "cutlure shock", which you are researching. 

Using * can be useful too....

Adding a * on the end of the stem of a word means you can search lots of different words at the same time. For example theor* will search for the words: theory, theories, theorists, theoretical......


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