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Advanced Search Techniques Search Terms

Learn about advanced search strategies for databases and search engines.

Search Terms

Search terms can simply be what comes to your mind when you think of a research topic or they can be more precise disciplinary terms. For example, if you are conducting research on user experience, you might search just that, user experience, or you might search the abbreviation, UX.

Determining your search terms is part of the research process and is experimental in nature. Beginning the searching process by using terms that come to mind will help you brainstorm new search terms while looking at subject headings in your search results can help you gain insight into disciplinary terminology and abbreviations. Searching your terms list in a variety of combinations and with a variety of other searching techniques is the next step.

Brainstorming Search Terms Example

When you begin the searching process it is good to brainstorm terms and then, as you search those terms and discover new ones, add them to your list. One way to start is to make a list of terms that come to mind and then list related terms. Related terms can be similar terms and synonyms. Because some terms are inextricably linked to opposing terms, e.g., abolition/slavery and divorce/marriage, terms can also be antonyms. 

Here are some terms that might be used for researching the connection between user experience and customer retention.  

Original Term Related Term
User experience usability, UX, user interface
Design thinking user centered, human centered
Customer retention customer loyalty, churn rate, lifetime customer value (CLV), renewal rates
Cost benefit ratio (CBR) return on investment (ROI), cost effectiveness analysis (CEA)