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Research Toolkit: Keywords

Tools, techniques, and resources to help you find the information you need.

 Related Guide: Choosing a Topic


Once you've chosen a good topic, it helps to take a few minutes to identify keywords that will help you find what you need. Having a list of keywords will help guide your search and lead you to relevant information on your topic. Here are some tips to get you started.



Try It: Brainstorming Keywords Worksheet


Step 1: Identify the Major Concepts of Your Topic

Pick out the key concepts that make up your 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?", the key concepts would be social media and mental health. These are keywords that will help you find information on your topic. 


Step 2: Brainstorm Synonyms for Your Keywords

Coming up with synonyms for your keywords gives you more keywords, and, therefore, 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.

Image showing synonyms for different keywords separated into boxes. Box #1 lists synonyms for social media, including social networking, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Box #2 lists keywords for mental health, including anxiety, depression, psychological impact, and psychological aspects.


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


Step 3: Use Your Keywords in a Search for Books, Articles, or Other Information


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