Skip to Main Content

Choosing Keywords: Home

This guide walks you through choosing effective keywords for research.

Choosing Keywords

When conducting research the words you choose are as important as the places where you search - this guide will help you choose effective terms.

Choosing Effective Keywords

How To Choose Effective Keywords

1. When searching in library databases its not effective to enter entire research topic or question like you would in Google. Instead, you want to break down your topic or question into keywords. Ask yourself what are the main points or ideas of your topic?

Mind map, center: your topic. branches: main point, important idea, target age range, key concept

2. Let's say you were researching methods for encouraging student engagement in high school students in rural communities, your keywords would be: rural communities, student engagement and high school. 

Academic Search Ultimate: rural communities AND student engagement AND highschool

3. It is also useful to brainstorm alternate keywords for your topic. These can be synonyms, sub topics you are interested in, related terms, etc.

Alternate keywords for high school are secondary education or upper classmen; alternate keywords for student engagement are community involvement and internships

There are also words that aren't useful as keywords. Such as "effect" or "benefit". Instead, try to brainstorm specific effects or benefits to use as keywords. If you find an article you like look at their "Abstract," and "Subjects" to find new keywords.

Article, arrows pointing to subject and abstract