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Research : A How to Guide for Students: Step 4. Focus your research

Finding Books @ FAMU Libraries

If you don't already know what you want, keywords are the way to go. Use the keywords developed during your earlier brainstorming (STEP 2!).  When you search by keywords, you're searching by natural language, the language that we commonly use in speech and writing.

Search engines on the Internet are based around keyword searching to locate the information you need. The tips here can be used in not only in the FAMU Library catalog, but throughout many databases.


When you start your catalog search, it'll be set for a keyword search by default. You can also select author, title, subject, etc.
A keyword search will search for your term anywhere in the catalog record: author, title, subjects, table of contents, and publisher information. It does not search the fulltext of the items.


The next step after doing a general keyword search is to focus your search by using the subject terms that appear at the bottom of records.

Why use a subject? If you did a search for "Civil War" you will find resources on not only the American Civil War, but also the Civil War in Liberia, Nigeria, Spain, Kenya and many others. Subject headings (you may also see them called descriptors in some databases) will be very specific and often place a concept, event, or person in a particular context. This way you can collect all the sources on your topic, whether or not the authors use the same words you do.


  • starting with key words "Civil War", will lead you to the subject term, Civil War, 1861-1865. 
  • key words "mobile phones", leads to subject terms, cell phones and cellular telephones
  • key words "gay marriage", leads to subject term, same sex marriage

It's somewhat similar to tagging friends in Facebook photos. For example, when you click on a tag for your friend Derek, it brings you all pictures of the same Derek - not just any random Derek.

What is a Peer Reviewed article?

Here's a short, funny video desribing what Peer Reviewed articles are.

Brought to you by Western Libraries

Evaluating Internet Resources

Remember, your professor may require you use 'authoritative' resources. If you find something on the internet, be prepared to defend why you think it is authoritative.

Resources @ FAMU