UHP 189 -- Visual World

This class guide supports research for Beach Museum topics and UHP 189 focusing on the Visual World.

Library Research Guide

Keywords and Synonyms

Why Keywords?

  • Because good keywords are essential to good research.
  • The more keywords you can think of, the more likely you will find what you are looking for.

Why Synonyms?

Synonyms make your list of keywords longer. More keywords = better searching = more results. Look at the example below to get an idea of how synonyms can broaden your understanding of a given concept:

image of a synonym word map

Our Advice: 

  • Make lists of keywords for the main concepts of your research topic.
  • Use single words or simple phrases.
  • Be prepared that this may all change as you learn more information through your research.
  • Be flexible and adaptable in your thinking.
  • Use a thesaurus to help generate synonyms.

Keywords in Art

Consider the following when building your list of keywords:

  • Brainstorm terms based on what words you hope to find in the perfect article.
  • Consider synonyms for key terms or any terms that are interchangeable.
  • What terminology suggests to you that the author knows what they're talking about?
    • Movements: American Modernism, American Regionalism, Modern Art, Modernism, Naturalism, Regionalism, Social Realism, Surrealism
    • Name: Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Marsden Hartley, Margot Peet, Edna Reindel, Grant Wood
    • Title: Achelous and Hercules, Baptism in Kansas, Parade to War
    • Medium: charcoal, chalk, ink, oil painting, pastel, watercolor´╗┐

Search Examples

Many library resources offer the option to combine your keywords using AND, OR, & NOT.  This can also be useful when searching online.  Use quotation marks to search for a name or phrase.

  • AND = All words/phrases must be present; helps limit the search.
    • "John Steuart Curry" AND "mural cycles"
    • "Thomas Hart Benton" AND illustration AND "Mark Twain"
  • OR = Great for synonyms or variations of the same concept; helps broaden the search while staying within the subject area.
    • "John Steuart Curry" OR "John S. Curry" 
    • "Margot Peet" OR "Marguere Munger Peet"
    • painting AND (Regionalism OR "American Regionalism")
  • NOT = Exclude an unrelated term, or to weed out irrelevant results.
    • ("Thomas Hart Benton" AND "book illustration") NOT "book review"