Bachelor of Building Design: Finding resources

What are keywords?

Keywords (or key words) are words that tell you what approach you should take when answering an assignment question. 

Keywords can include content (topic), limiting (restricting), and task (instruction) words.

Assignment example:

"You are required to design a two-storey or a three-storey facility that will be constructed on a vacant lot in the Best City Council (site information and design brief are provided). The facility will be designed to meet the relevant building regulations and design standards for the early childhood facilities.​"

    Content Words      

  • Tell you what the topic area is.
  • Help you to focus your research and reading on the correct area.
  • Think about synonyms or similar words.    
  • e.g. in this example: a two-storey or a three-storey facility.

Source: University of New South Wales

    Limiting Words 

  • Tell you what area(s) to focus on, e.g. meeting the relevant building regulations, design standards.
  • Define the topic area further, e.g. early childhood facilities.
  • Indicate aspects of the topic area you should narrowly concentrate on, e.g. a two-storey or a three-storey design requirements.

    Task Words

  • Tell you what to do; the action(s) you need to perform, e.g. compare, contrast, describe, summarise, i.e. design, as in this example.

When you are searching for information for an essay question, assignment or project, use the identified content and limiting keywords to search for information sources in our Library Search and online.

Keyword search strategies

Sample assignment topic: "Design a two-storey or a three-storey facility that will be constructed on a vacant lot in the Best City Council (site information and design brief are provided). The facility will be designed to meet the relevant building regulations and design standards for the early childhood facilities."

Once you have analysed your topic and done some preliminary reading, you are ready to break down the chosen research topic into key concepts selected from both the topic and your readings. It is best to identify 2 to 4 key concepts, with each concept containing up to 2 words, which will serve as keywords or search terms you'll type in Library Search to find relevant resources.  You might need to build separate search strategies for different aspects of your research as well as use a variety of keywords to ensure you cover all aspects of the topic.

Source: University of Texas Libraries

For example, focusing on the assignment topic, listed are the main concepts or keywords: 'building design', and 'early childhood facility', and the narrower concepts, such as 'low-rise buildings', 'building regulations', and 'design standards'Alternatively, you could use synonymous (related), or broader and narrower terms, such as:


low-rise building

building design 

low-rise early childhood building design

facility design & construction

educational facilities design

child care facilities design

child care centre

facilities design

facility requirements

design requirements

educational facilities planning

educational facilities design

site planning process

site development plan 

concept plans

Apply the following strategies to combine them:

  • for a basic search, enter the identified keywords in the Library Search field, for example: building design early childhood facility
  • you can combine keywords with some other aspects of your research, for example, you can combine 'architectural site analysis' and 'climate' in your searches by using the Boolean operators (AND, OR & NOT) for narrowing or broadening your searches, or for excluding some search terms from your searches, if appropriate. The use of Boolean operators allows for constructing more complex search statements, for example:

  architectural site analysis AND (climate OR environment OR climate analysis OR ambiance OR "atmospheric conditions")

  • think of possible synonyms and related words or phrases, for example, 'climate' OR 'environment' OR 'atmospheric conditions '
  • search exact phrases by enclosing the phrase in quotes, for example, "atmospheric conditions"
  • find a term with various endings by using as a truncation symbol represented by an asterisk (*), for example, architect* will retrieve architecture, architecturalarchitect, and architects 
  • group related or synonymous terms together by placing them in parentheses, for example, (climate OR environment OR climate analysis OR ambiance OR "atmospheric conditions"). Also consider the Australian English and American English spelling of words. 

Boolean operators

Boolean Operators are the words AND, OR, and NOT used in library databases that can make searches more precise, and save you time by removing the need to go through all the search results in order to find the most relevant articles. For example, when searching on the topic of 'urban design', you could apply the following terms and operators:

AND narrows the search resulting in more focused results, for instance, searching for  “urban design” AND "social aspects', all articles in your result will include both concepts (keywords)

OR broadens the search by instructing the database to search for any of the words, which is particularly useful for synonyms or related terms, i.e. “urban design” OR “city planning” OR “civic design”

NOT narrows the search by instructing the database to remove all unnecessary search results, for example “urban design” NOT “history”


Keyword searching strategies - Video

Search tools on the VU library website

Link through to the library website

Many (but not all) VU Library resources can be accessed through VU Library Search. Keywords or search terms can be entered in the search box.

VU Library Home Page


The library also provides tools to allow users to search for the book, journal article, video, or newspaper whether in physical or electronic format. These tools are located below the main search box on the library website. Consider the text listed under each of the search tools. 

1. A-Z Databases - Find articles, ebooks, streaming videos, case studies and special collections.

2. Publication Finder - Find online publications by title - journals and ebooks.

3. BrowZine - Easy browsing of scholarly journals on any device.

VU Page with Resources listed


VU Library Search Overview: Part 1

VU Library Search Overview: Part 2

Ask the Library

Library Chat 

Check Library hours calendar for LibChat availability

Search existing answers or post a new question.