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CPHS_APUSH - Decades Project: Search Engines

Standards Met:,,

Brainstorming for SEARCH terms.

Break Down Your Topic into Concepts

Databases have difficulty searching for sentences and plain language text. Search by using the most important terms in your topic. For instance, your topic or research question may be "What were the most significant characteristics (people, events, science and technology, music, sports, fashion, entertainment, politics) of the 1960's?"  Many of the words in this sentence would confuse a database search, by ignoring articles, pronouns, prepositions, and other unimportant words, you will be left with the key words to use in your search. Begin by crossing out the unimportant words and focusing on the key concept terms:


"What were the most significant characteristics (people, events, science and technology, music, sports, fashion, entertainment, politics) of the 1960's?" 

When searching for articles on this topic in a database, simply use the terms:

- 1960's

- people

- events

- science

- technology

- music

Brainstorm for Synonyms Related to Your Concepts


Now that you've broken down your research question into the specific concepts, think about all the other words an author might use to talk about these concepts.  In other words, find synonyms or related words for each concept term/phrase.  Hint: use a thesaurus if you get stuck. 


1960's        people       music
sixties       president      rock bands
60's       musicians      Beatles
1961       Civil Rights leaders      John Lennon
1962       sports figures      protest music


(This information is from :




1. The first step in using a SEARCH ENGINE like Google, is to parse out your research question to come up with effective SEARCH TERMS.Take your research question and:

1.1. Circle key words.

1.2. Cross out unnecessary words.

1.3. Come up with alternative phrasing.

2. Remember to use good search skills:

2.1. Every word matters.

2.2. Order matters.

2.3. Capitalization does not matter.

2.4. Puncutuation usually does not matter.

2.5 Use limiters.


The first thing you should look at when considering whether or not a website might be useful is the URL (the web address). The most typical COMMON DOMAINS (the last three letters in the main part of the address) that you will see are:

.com (commercial website - their purpose is generally to sell you something - generally not good for scholarly research)

.org (generally a not for profit organization - BUT wikipedia is a .org and generally not a good place to do scholarly research)

.gov ( a government website)

.edu (an educational website)

You can do an ADVANCED SEARCH in which you limit your search by the COMMON DOMAIN. An ADVANCED SEARCH will also allow you to search by date, language, and even reading level. Type in your search terms into the Google SEARCH box. You will see a gear on the right hand side of the screen. When you click this gear, one of your options will be ADVANCED SEARCH

3. Please note that through GOOGLE SCHOLAR you can access lots of scholarly resources on your topic as well. Here you will find antire books that are in the common domain, scholarly articles, etc. Click here to get to Google Scholar:

Google Power Searching Tips

Check out these "Power Searching Tips" from Google WebMaster, Matt Cutt: