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Research Process: Step 4: Keywords

How to write a paper at the Davis Library and University of Rio Grande & Rio Grande Community College

Make a List of Useful Keywords

Keep track of the words that are used to describe the topic. This will help when searching in different databases, because not every author uses the same keywords to describe the same topic.

  • What were the important words found in the encyclopedia?
  • Are there synonyms for these words? Example: "heart disease" and "cardiovascular disease"
  • Are there broader (less specific) or narrower (more specific) words to use? Example: "Smog" is more specific than "air pollution," but "children" is less specific than "kindergartners."
  • Not every database or article uses the same words to describe the same topic, so look for suggested keywords or subject terms during your search.

Find Keywords with Snappy Words

Snappy Words

Identifying Keywords

The keywords you use can have a profound impact on the results of your research. Using the “right” words will speed up the research process, while the “wrong” words can bring to it to a halt.

Before you can begin searching for information, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be easily be found by scanning: 

  • Your research questions
  • Articles found from background research
  • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles

If you are still struggling:

  • Use a thesaurus to identify synonyms.
  • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe them.
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend.