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Research and Language

Choosing Search Terms for Search Engines

The words you type into a search engine determine what you will find. It's worth it to think carefully about which terms you choose, and why - and to try different terms if you're not finding what you want.

Search engines take your words literally, and will look for them in documents. If you use movement language, you are likely to find movement information sources. If you put your research question in mainstream language, you are more likely to find academic, government and industry sources.

Sometimes your opposition will use their own terms. For example: a news article may talk about the police, but the police describe themselves as peace officers.

You can use the different kinds of language strategically. Here is an overview of the types of information you can find and how you can use it in your campaign.

Movement Terms Mainstream Terms

cops, action, environmental justice, gentrification, prison industrial complex, welfare deform....

police, demonstration, conservation, revitalization, criminal justice system, welfare reform...

What you'll find:
* movement analysis and political context
* potential allies
* critical information

What you'll find:
* academic reports and studies
* reports from liberal think tanks
* data from government agencies
* opposition's analysis of issue

Potential Uses:
* To sharpen your understanding of an issue
* To identify new allies
* To learn about similar struggles in other communities

Potential Uses:
* To find statistics and analysis that add credibility to your campaign
* To mobilize a broader base
* To understand your opposition's rhetoric and have an effective response


General Planning & Tips
Campaign Strategy
Ten Campaign Research Steps


Researching Corporations
Researching Individuals
Getting Public Records

Creating Surveys
Creando Encuestas (PDF)


Capturing Air Toxics 411
Challenging FTAA, NAFTA & WTO
Juvenile Justice in California


Company Information

Corporate Responsibility
Education & Schools
Elections 2004
Government Information
Money & Politics

Plan Puebla-Panamá (PPP) - English
Plan Puebla-Panamá (PPP) - Español
Prisons & Criminal Justice
Welfare & Economic Rights
Search Engines & Databases


Using Search Engines
Research & Language
Evaluating Documents

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