You’ve just learned how and why to find business information using NAICS codes.  But what do you do when the topic you're researching isn't described by a NAICS code?

This tutorial will take you through the process of searching for business information using keywords, which are sometimes referred to as search terms.

Steps in Keyword Searching

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I’ll break the process of keyword searching down into 5 steps:

1. Define your research questions.
2. Brainstorm keywords for each question.
3. Search a library database for articles containing your keywords.
4. Follow leads and record additional keywords.
5. Think of other ways to approach your topic.

Steps in Keyword Searching

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On the right side of the screen, you should see the search screen for the EBSCO Business Source Complete database (if you're on campus) or a login screen (if you're off campus).

Don't worry about this right now - I'll get to it later.

My Topic

Let me start by telling you about my topic.

I have an idea for a product. I want to manufacture athletic shoes that would be appropriate to wear to an office job with a business professional dress code.

My shoes will be designed for people who work at treadmill desks, so they don't have to change their shoes if they get called away to a meeting. People who walk or bike to work might also want to buy my shoes.

Defining Research Questions

Before I start researching my business idea, I need to define my research questions. These are the questions that I’ll want to answer as I try to determine if my business idea is feasible. My questions are flexible - they might change as my research progresses - but they’re a good starting point and will help me focus my research.


Some of the questions I want to answer about my shoe idea are:

  • Does it make sense to start manufacturing this product? 
  • Are sales of treadmill desks on the rise or declining?
  • How many people walk/bike to work?
  • Who are my target consumers?
  • Who would my competitors be?

Brainstorming Keywords

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Because I’d like to keep this tutorial relatively short, I’ll focus on just one of my research questions: Are sales of treadmill desks on the rise or declining?

There is not a NAICS code for treadmill desks, or even for treadmills, so I need to use keywords in my search.

Brainstorming Keywords

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Here’s how a keyword search works:

When I enter keywords in a database search box, the database returns all articles that contain the keywords. I can search for one keyword (all articles containing the word treadmill) or combine keywords (all articles containing the word treadmill and also containing the word office).

Take a moment and think about words and short phrases that you might find in articles about trends in treadmill desk sales. Jot down the words/phrases you think of on piece of paper, and we’ll compare notes in the next screen.

Brainstorming Keywords

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Here are some words/phrases I thought of:

  • treadmill
  • treadmill desk
  • sales
  • trends
  • office
I'm going to start with the most specific keyword (treadmill desk) to see what I find.

Search Business Source Complete

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Now it’s time to start searching Business Source Complete. If you’re on campus, you should see the Business Source Complete search screen on the right side of your screen.

If you're off campus, type your Butler ID and password now to access Business Source Complete.

Search Business Source Complete

2 of 3From the Business Source Complete search screen, click the Advanced Search option under the big search rectangle.

This should bring up the advanced search options, with several empty search rectangles.

This is where you type in the keywords you want to find. Start by entering just one phrase -- treadmill desk -- to see what kind of results you get.

Your search screen should look like this:

Now click the green search button.

Search Business Source Complete

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You should now be looking at a list of all the articles/reports containing treadmill desk. While a quick scan of the article titles indicates that none of them exclusively talk about sales, it does look like there are several articles that might address whether treadmill desks are a rising or declining trend.

Follow Leads

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Even though they aren't all about treadmill desk sales, I could get a better idea of the types of companies that use treadmill desks by reading some of these articles.

I might even learn the specific names of companies that have purchased treadmill desks for their employees, and companies that manufacture treadmill desks.

These leads could also be used as future keyword searches, so as I read, I’ll jot them down.

I can also use the Thesaurus feature in Business Source Complete (in the blue bar at the top of the screen) to help me think of other terms to describe my topic.

Follow Leads

2 of 2And remember my research questions in Step 1? This is a good time to re-examine those questions to see if anything I’ve found so far helps answer them.

If not, I’ll need to follow the same steps to create the keyword searches that will help me find information relevant to those questions.

Other Ways to Approach the Topic


It looks like my keyword search for articles containing the phrase treadmill desk is a step in the right direction.  I should also think about other ways to approach my topic.

For example, maybe I should see if I can find information on trends in office footwear, or whether any companies have policies that reward employees for walking to work. Adding terms like footwear or policy to my search could return results that I wouldn't see otherwise.

Approaching a topic from another angle especially helpful if I’m having trouble locating articles.


You've now searched Business Source Complete for specific information using keywords.  

This process will take several searches, and it's important to remember to keep track of the sources you find and potential leads for future searches.  

If you ever need help searching a database, please contact your Butler Librarians.  We're happy to assist!