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Research Toolkit: Keywords

Research toolkit to help you learn how to find the information you need.

 Related Guide: Choosing a Topic




Brainstorming Keywords Worksheet Keywords or search terms are what we use in databases and search engines to find information. Selecting the right keywords for your topic and knowing how to use them will help you successfully find what you need. 


Step 1: Identify the Major Concepts of Your Topic

Pick out the key concepts that make up your topic (make sure your have a focused topic) and omit common words like what, the, is, of, have, etc. For example, if your research question is: What impact does social media have on mental health? You should pick out the words social media and mental health. These are the words you'll use to search for information on your topic. 

Step 2: Brainstorm Synonyms for Your Main Concepts

Coming up with synonyms for your main concepts gives you more options when searching for information. Synonyms are terms that have the same or similar meaning. Let's use our sample research topic. Just because our research question uses the word social media does not mean that every author uses that same word. Some authors might use synonyms for social media, such as social networking, or more specific terms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In order to collect all the relevant articles on your topic, you might want to include these synonyms in your search.

Brainstorm Keywords


Pro Tip: Use a thesaurus to help you come up with synonyms. Wikipedia is also a helpful source for coming up with synonyms and related terms.

Pro Tip: You'll probably stumble upon more keywords you can use as you begin searching. Great - try them out!