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FNP 100: Introduction to Professional Practice

Step 2: Plan Your Approach

Identifying Keywords

After you have determined your research question, it is important to identify which specific terms you will use to conduct your search.

Keyword searching is the process of taking your research question, and identifying the key words or concepts that you would like to see reflected in your search results.  It is an iterative process, and may require several tries to find the right combination. 

For example, if we look at the question, In Canada, are food banks part of the problem, or the solution, to food insecurity?, the keywords for my topic would likely be:  food banks Canada food insecurity   The rest of the question contains connecting words that are not essential to answering our research question.  Typically, a research question will have about 3-4 key concepts, depending on its complexity. 

Once you have identified your keywords, you'll have to learn how to appropriately connect them.  Understanding Boolean logic (AND, OR) is important when combining your terms together. 

In Search Everything, there is an implicit AND between keywords; you do not need to add it in yourself.  Your search results will include records with all of your terms included.   If you are searching in a database, and doing a more complex searching, understanding Boolean logic will be important when expanding or narrowing your search results.   The below image demonstrates the keywords for a paper on “youth employment in Canada”, as well as potential synonymous terms that you could include to expand your results. 


Shows how Boolean works (Synonyms with OR between them) AND (Synonyms)


Where to Search

Determine what kind of literature you want to look at, whether it be journal articles, books, electronic resources, newspapers, or even other literature reviews on similar topics.

To search across databases and disciplines, use Search Everything, the main search option on the Library homepage.

In addition to Search Everything, you may also wish to search some subject-specific databases.  Toronto Metropolitan University has over 300 databases available to students, visit the A-Z List. For example, you may be interested in knowing what databases are relevant for topics in Nutrition and Food.  You can consult the research guide for Nutrition and Food for database recommendations.