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SSH205 Library Instruction

How Searching Works

Search engines like Google use bots to seek out pages on the Internet and index them, so when you search, Google finds the right page. While Google is great at finding local sushi restaurants, items like ebooks and article databases are restricted by their license and you cannot access them through Google.

The library’s search engine (Search Everything) and its licensed databases search for the books, articles etc., that the library has purchased. They search by the relevance of your keywords. This is why choosing different words is important as the author might be using the synonym of your keyword.   

Searching is repetitive:

You will not find everything you need in one search. You have to try different words and search strategies and different library search tools (e.g databases).

Be prepared to narrow or expand your topic

  • Too many results - narrow your topic by adding a term (e.g Climate Change add Canada)
  • Too few results -  expand your topic by removing or expanding a term (e.g Air Pollution AND Toronto - change Toronto to Ontario)

Listing or mapping out your keywords and related terms at the beginning of your search will save you time. Another technique is to notice the terms being used by the sources you do find. Use those terms in your next search.


Searching with Keywords

Keywords & Synonyms

1. Keywords are the most important words in your topic

  • Is the petroleum industry contributing to climate change in Canada?

= Petroleum industry 

= Climate change 

= Canada


2. Also think of other words or phrases related to your topic (Synonyms).

  • Climate change = global warming

  • Petroleum = oil

*A concept map can help you come up with related terms to your topic


3. Search again and again using different keywords! 


4. Use the limiters available like “Peer Reviewed” or “Date Range”


Keyword Search Example: 



Keyword Searching From Seneca Libraries (Open Captions)




Research Question: What are the effects of rising oil prices on the economy of Canada


Keyword 1: Oil prices Synonyms: Gas, gasoline, petroleum, fossil fuels, cost, expenses
Keyword 2: Economy Synonyms: Economic impact, financial impact
Keyword 3: Canada

Synonyms: There is no synonym for Canada, but you could

narrow your topic to a province like Alberta



Try It:

Research Question: "What motivates University students to complete online coursework?"


Keyword 1 Synonyms 
Keyword 2 Synonyms
Keyword 3 Synonyms


Advanced Search Techniques


Two word term or phrase searching "..."

When you have a two word keyword (like First Nations or Social Media) use quotation marks around the two words - "Social Media". This keeps the two words together in your search results. Otherwise you might get results that look for the two words separately and not sequentially. 


Limiters are your friend! 

Search Engines like the Library's Search Everything and our various subject databases have limiters on the search page and the results page. Limiters will allow you to limit your results to the type of resources (books, peer reviewed, newspapers etc), the publication date range, the subject area and the language of the resource, just to name a few. Always check out the limiters when searching. 


Module 3: Quiz