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UST 458: Urban Policy: Keywords & Searching


Select a research topic or research question. Break it down into keywords. Do some brainstorming of search terms!

Think of synonyms and related terms, as well as broader terms and narrower terms. Review your syllabus, assignment instructions, textbook(s), and readings to identify search terms.

Possible terms to include in your searches for sources:

Causes, consequences, costs, data, economic costs, effectiveness, financial costs, government, history, impact, implement, implementation, initiatives, laws, legal, legislation, policy, policies, problems, programs, public policy, recommendations, regulations, risks, social costs, solutions, statistics, strategies, United States, etc. The possibilities are endless!

When searching for information, you will try different keywords and combinations of terms! Be patient and persistent!

Here are some keywords as examples:

African Americans AND housing discrimination 

Crime prevention AND policies AND United States

Digital divide AND academic performance

Immigration policy AND United States  

Lead AND water pollution AND United States

Opioid crisis AND solutions

Opioid epidemic AND costs

Racial profiling AND (police OR law enforcement)                                

Identify additional keywords by reviewing your search results, particularly the SUBJECTS assigned to items and the ABSTRACTS of articles.


  • Logic used in online searching
  • Use Boolean operators to combine search terms in library catalogs, research databases, and search engines
  • The most common Boolean operators are: AND, OR, NOT

Boolean Operator: AND


  • Use AND to connect your main search terms
  • AND limits results by requiring all terms to be present; fewer items are retrieved


Crime prevention programs AND effectiveness

Environmental justice AND policies AND United States

Opioids AND prescription writing


Boolean Operator: OR


  • Use OR to connect synonyms or related terms
  • OR expands results since only one of your search terms needs to be present; more items are retrieved


Jobs OR employment OR unemployment OR labor market

Police OR law enforcement OR cops

Segregation OR desegregation OR resegregation OR integration

Boolean Operator: NOT



  • Use NOT to exclude a term; fewer items are retrieved


Schools NOT urban

Violence NOT cities




Try NESTING your search terms by using both AND & OR:


African Americans


(employment OR jobs)

African Americans


(healthcare OR health care OR medical care)