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Com 304 Interpersonal Communication: Search Tips

Keywords used in Quantitative Articles

These key words are usually found in the abstracts of quantitative scholarly journal articles.  An example of a search would be:

longitudal study AND newspaper subscribers


  • empirical
  • research
  • method
  • instrument
  • reliability
  • validity
  • research design
  • critical theory
  • evaluation
  • practices
  • questionnaire
  • controlled study
  • case study
  • longitudinal study
  • cross-sectional study
  • experimental research
  • quantitative
  • sampling
  • measurement
  • protocol
  • results
  • double-blind
  • analytic
  • cohort
  • chiI-squared test
  • pre-tests & post-tests
  • correlation
  • statistics

First steps for efficient, successful research!

Before you even start to search, it's important to narrow and refine your topic to a simple, meaningful research question or statement.  Otherwise, your search results and project will be too overwhelming and unmanagable. One quick shortcut to narrowing a topic to a managable research question is to ask Who, What, Where, and When in relation to your topic.

Once you have a simple research statement, you will need to identify 2-4 keywords in your statement.  Most of the time, the keywords will be nouns or verbs.  For each keyword, make a list of alternate terms. These terms may be synonyms, broader or narrower concepts, or alternate spellings.  When you search, try alternate keyword combinations.

Search Tips for Library Catalogs & Databases

Subject Search

  • Library catalogs use specific Library of Congress Subject Headings to classify books. When you search, the words have to be typed in the exact order used by Library of Congress.
  • You will find the assigned Library of Congress Subject Headings listed in each book record. The subject headings in each book record are linked. Once you find a relevant subject heading in a book record, you will discover more books on the topic by clicking on the link.
  • Article databases also use a controlled vocabulary similar to Library of Congress, but different databases may use different subject terms.
  • Note: You cannot use operators such as AND or OR , nor truncate with an asterisk * when doing a subject search.

Keyword Search

  • Uses natural language. Type a word or phrase.
  • Use simple words, not sentences.
  • Put quotes or parentheses around phrases when you want to retrieve all of the  words, in the exact order given. Example: “interpersonal communcation"
  • You can expand your search by inserting OR between words.   Example: wiki OR blog
  • You can narrow your search by inserting AND between words. Example: mentor AND communication
  • You can use an to retrieve multiple variants of a word with one  efficient search. Example: communicat*retrieves results with communicate, communicating, communicator, communicates or communication
  • Refine your search Example: (interpersonal OR small group) AND communication


Keywords Used in Qualitative Articles

These key words are usually found in the abstracts of qualitative scholarly journal articles.  An example of a search would be: 

survey AND "facebook advertising"


  • survey
  • interview
  • poll
  • observation
  • case study
  • "action research"
  • "focus groups"
  • ethnography
  • "grounded theory"
  • phenomenology

Select Subject Headings