Choosing Keywords

Most research topics examine at least two, or more, central ideas or concepts.

For each of these ideas, there may be several interchangeable words (or synonyms) that people can use when discussing them. When you are searching for information on a topic, it is these words that you will use, and combine, to find relevant sources.

After you chose your topic, but before you begin searching, try to:
  • Identify the three or four core ideas that make up your topic, then
  • List all of the terms or phrases that might be used in a discussion about those ideas

To help you keep track of the terms you uncover, try plotting them in a table like the one below.

What is the media’s contribution to eating disorders in teenagers?
Main Ideas Media Eating Disorders Teenagers
Keywords Media
Mass media
Eating disorders
Body image

(Download a Research Planner to save yourself time.)

Once you’ve defined your main ideas, and generated a group search terms (keywords), the next challenge is to figure out how to enter them in a database’s search field(s).

A thorough search for information will make effective use of Truncation, Boolean Operators (AND, OR and NOT), and other tools/strategies for limiting or expanding your search.