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*English 1A: General Search Tips

Research guide for English 1A

Select Keywords

Determine Your Keywords 

Look at your research topic/question and pull out important concepts and ideas. 

Research Question

Key Concepts

How does sleep affect academic performance in college students? sleep, academic performance, college students

Keyword Synonyms

Select keywords from your research topic or different keywords for the same concept.

Key Concepts


Sleep Insomnia, hypersomnia, oversleeping, sleep disorders, sleep deprivation, sleep habits
Academic performance Academic achievement, grades, graduation, success
College students Community college students, undergraduates, freshmen

Your Search Terms

Topic How does sleep affect academic performance in college students?
Key Concepts sleep academic performance college students
Related Search Terms Insomnia, hypersomnia, oversleeping, sleep disorders, sleep deprivation, sleep habits Academic achievement, grades, graduation Community college students, undergraduates, freshmen

How to Use Your Search Terms

Now that you've created your list of search terms, you will need to combine them using BOOLEAN operators (AND and OR). In your example, the combined search terms would look like this:

(sleep OR insomnia OR sleep disorder) AND (academic OR success OR grades) AND (college OR students OR undergraduate)

General Database Search Tips

When searching the MC Library databases, use these tips to help you find the best results quickly:

1. Spell names, titles, or phrases correctly.
2. Use quotation marks for names, phrases, or titles:

  • "Mark Twain"
  • "Hundred Years War"
  • "climate change"

3. Combine your keywords together by using AND to narrow, OR to broaden, NOT to exclude:

Research Question Example How does sleep affect the academic success of college students?
AND oversleeping AND college
OR (college OR undergraduate) 
NOT NOT "high school"
Keywords to enter into a database sleep AND "academic success" AND (college OR undergraduate)

4. Use the limiters that are typically in the left hand column. You can find full versions of articles, scholarly (peer reviewed) articles, and articles from a specific time frame.