AFC 302w

Writing for African-American Studies

Keywords for searching

Generating Keywords When Exploring a Topic

After you have identified a general topic and generated some questions about it, you are ready to explore what has been published related to your questions. To explore what has been published, you will need to discover what words authors have used in titles and keywords, and what words databases have used when tagging or assigning subject headings to articles. 

This video explains the difference between keywords and subject headings. 

Once you have discovered some of these terms, you will use them to explore further. 

Remember, there is almost never one perfect search.  Keep trying different combinations of terms to explore what is available.  Notice how many results you are getting, and whether the results seem to be relevant. 

As you search, use your growing knowledge about what is published to narrow and refine your questions. 

When you find a highly relevant article, look closely at the subject terms and the keywords in title and abstract in order to find similar articles.

Example:   You have decided that you want to explore what has been written about how African Americans have engaged with feminism.

So, how big a topic is this?  We try a search in ESearch for "african americans" AND feminism

Notice that we searched ONLY for nouns or descriptive words. We do not use words that are about value, quality, or cause/effect/impact; and we generally avoid verbs when searching.

If we do the search we can see over sixty thousand results,'s a big topic!

We can look at some of the subject headings listed under "more" on the left-hand column, or explore the previews of some of the titles. It can take a while to get a feel for how people have been writing about the subject and how it is subdivided.

We decide to focus on the oppressive aspects of feminism, and start listing more keywords to experiment with:

  • oppression
  • intersectionality
  • racism
  • "white feminism"

Now we experiment with more searches.  We find an article titled "Concerned, meet terrified: Intersectional feminism and the Women's March"  Now we use the references in that article to identify more keywords and more articles of interest.  The database that hosts this article also offers a "related articles" list, with more options to explore.

Databases for periodical articles

Usually Esearch is your best option for article searching, because it searches simultaneously in most of EMU's databases, but sometimes it is helpful to search directly in a database or cluster of databases. Here are some starting places:

Finding Known Articles

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