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Arkansas State University

Library Catalog: Keywords

Use this guide to learn how to find books, magazines, dvds, pretty much anything using the Library Catalog.


Before you begin searching, you may want to spend a few minutes thinking about your keywords. These will be the search terms you use to find resources. Many people are used to writing entire sentences in Google and getting results. This approach is called natural language. Unfortunately, many library resources can't handle natural language. Instead, you should used keywords instead. This approach means listing and search only the words and phrases that are the most important.


For example:

Natural Language: What is the distance between the earth and the sun?

Keywords: distance earth sun


Why does this matter? Many resources can't pick out which words are actually important and which words to ignore. For example if you did a search for "what is the" like in the example above, the Library Catalog will try to find results for things that include the words what, is, and/or the (which is a lot). You will receive things that have nothing to do with your actual topic. By only searching distance, earth, and sun, you are limiting your search to results that have just those words.


If you're having trouble determining your keywords, think about what your hashtags might be if you were creating a social media post. For example:


What is the distance between the earth and the sun? #distance #earth #sun

Hints for Keywords

1. Spelling matters! The Catalog is not forgiving with typos. If you enter a typo, it will only search for that typo:

"Advances in Technolgy"

2. Think about alternate keywords. Authors may use different words when writing about very similar topics. For example, some authors write about teens, others teenagers, while others adolescents. Each search gives you different results, so try a few different searches with different keywords.

3. When searching for people, think about alternate names. For example, Herman Webster Mudgett is famously known as H.H. Holmes. Another example is Alferd Packer, which is often misspelled as Alfred.
4. Learn from the pros! When you do find a resource that you like, look at the record, abstract, and/or table of content to figure out other words that the author/s used. Let's say you find the journal article below while searching for the keyword kuru. Look at how many possible keywords are in the record for the article: 

Record Example