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ARHU202X: Contemporary Research Methods for Creatives

Use this research guide to find resources and learn about methods to help with creative research.

Developing Keywords

When you search in the library catalog, an article database, or even in Google, you will have to formulate search terms, also known as keywords. 

Keywords are the everyday words you use to describe your topic. If you are having trouble thinking of a variety of keywords, use an online thesaurus, like to generate more keyword ideas.

You can also use encyclopedias and other reference resources to help learn more about a topic and to generate more keywords/search terms.

Keywords vs. Subjects


  • A general way of describing your topic


  • Used by the catalog or database to categorize the content of each book/article/resource
  • Good for first searches and if your topic is very new
  • Good for later searches and topics with a lot of research and resources
  • Can find too many, too few, or not relevant resources (but can combine terms to narrow and focus search)
  • You can also combine terms to narrow and focus your search
  • The database will find these if they are anywhere in the text or record
  • Will only return if the terms are in the subject field
  • More flexible; can be combined and searched in many contexts
  • Less flexible; need to know exact subject terms for the particular database you are searching (they are not universal) to find resources for your topic


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