An access point is defined as "a unit of information in a bibliographic record under which a person may search for and identify items listed in the library catalog or bibliographic database" (Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science).
When using the library search tools (catalog, Powersearch, etc.), you are searching through databases of records that contain information about different library items. Access points are pieces information from these records that you can search by to find an item. Popular access points include title, author, and subject.
Keyword is also an access point that allows you to search an entire record for specific words or phrases. Most databases will default to a keyword search unless specified, returning the most results back for a search.
To select an access point, look for a dropdown menu near the search box (may only be available under Advanced Search options).
Selecting an access point in an EBSCO database (click image to enlarge).
Selecting an access point in the LR library catalog (click image to enlarge).
Keywords are the most important words or phrases that describe your topic. For example, if your research is based around the question, "How do I treat drug abuse in teenagers through counseling?" then your keywords could be "drug abuse," "teenagers," and "counseling."
Once you've picked out two or three keywords, you can conduct an initial search using Boolean operators. If your search returns no results, brainstorm a few terms similar to one or two of your keywords. For example:
Using different combinations of these words will yield different search results. A search string using all of these words and Boolean operators would look like this:
(drug abuse OR substance abuse OR substance use) AND (teenagers OR adolescents OR young adults) AND (counseling OR therapy OR treatment)
Citation searching is a technique used to gain scholarly insight and find resources relating to a particular topic. Using a particularly good resource you have already found for a project, you can:
Look backwards - at the reference list. An examination of the resources cited in an article or book can:
Look forward - find out if other researchers have cited this resource. This can give you insight into: