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POLS 4256: Political Economy of Japan (Reimann): Keyword Searching

Information and resources for students enrolled in POLS 4256: Political Economy of Japan.

Identifying Keywords

In order to successfully search the library's online catalog and article databases, you will need to develop a list of words or concepts that best describe your topic.  A good research question will allow you to identify these concepts.

Take the following research question as an example:

Can the immigration of foreign workers provide a solution to the labor shortage caused by the declining birth rate in Japan?

The main concepts of this research question are:

  • immigration
  • foreign workers
  • labor shortage
  • declining birth rate
  • Japan

These concepts will become the search terms or keywords you will use to search the Library Catalog and online article databases.

Keep in mind that not every author will use the same keywords to describe a topic: one author might write about "declining population" instead of "declining birth rate" and another might use the phrase "labor migration" instead of "foreign labor."

For this reason, you will want to identify some synonyms and related terms for each of your keywords before you start searching. We recommend using a chart to keep track of your keywords.  As you find out more about your topic,  add important keywords and concepts to the chart. This will help you keep track of your searches and make your research go quicker.  When creating your list, consider all alternate forms of each keyword, alternate spellings, and any related words or phrases that may help in your search. (singular/plural, synonyms, etc.)

keyword 1: immigration keyword 2: foreign workers keyword 3: Japan keyword 4: declining birth rate

Synonyms and related words:

  • migration
  • labor migration
  • settlement
  • expatriation
  • relocation
  • etc.

Synonyms and related words:

  • foreign laborers
  • migrant workers
  • skilled laborers / workers
  • unskilled laborers / workers
  • worker(s)
  • laborer(s)
  • labor shortage
  • etc.

Synonyms and related words:


Synonyms and related words:

  • declining population
  • decreasing population
  • ageing population
  • fertility
  • birthrate
  • etc.

Search Tips - How to Connect Your Search Terms

Once you've identified your search terms and synonyms, the final prepatory step is to connect those terms into a search phrase. Library search tools like the library catalog and article databases require a specific format for connecting your search terms. It's like learning a new language; you need to learn the language before you can communicate effectively with the search tools.

To search for an exact phrase: put the words in quotes:

"population decline"

Note: Not all databases require you to put the words in quotes; some assume you meant to use them.  Try your search both ways to see what works best.

To search for various word endings of a word stem: type the word stem followed by an asterisk *:

For example: politic* will search for politics, political, politician, politicized, etc.

To ensure that all the words you enter appear in the search results: type AND in between each word:

Japan AND "population decline" AND immigration

Note, using AND is a way to narrow your search; the more words you connect with AND, the fewer results you will obtain.

To search for synonyms or words/phrases with similar meaning:  type OR between the words:

"birth rate" OR fertility OR ageing

Note, using OR is a way to expand or broaden your search; the more words you connect with OR, the more results you will obtain.


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Your Librarian

Brian Kooy
Philosophy, Religious Studies, Middle East Studies, and Political Science Librarian
Contact Info:
Library South | 5th floor | Suite 542 |