Choose search terms that you expect to find in written documents about your topic.
If you're looking for secondary sources (journal articles, books), use the language you would expect to find in a scholarly publication. If you're looking for primary sources, consider the language of the time you are researching and reflect that in your search terms.
Sometimes it is helpful to browse a few sources from the time and place you're studying in order to get a better sense for what search terms to use.
Here are some general ideas to consider when developing your search terms:
Once you have found a few sources on your topic, take note of the language that is being used.
If your topic is a political or social issue, do individuals on opposing sides use different terms? For example, pro-life versus pro-choice versus anti-choice.
Use this strategy when researching concepts that are phrases (e.g. Manifest Destiny or French Revolution), or when searching for a specific book or article (i.e. where you already know the exact title - e.g. Peasants Into Frenchmen).
Save time by searching for multiple synonyms at once. This is sometimes called "nested searching" or "set searching."
Truncation and Wildcards:
Most catalogs and databases enable users to search variations of keywords by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols. Consider using wildcard searching when there are multiple spellings of a word (e.g. globalization and the British spelling globalisation).
Putting it all together:
Try combining these search strategies to improve your search results.