Keywords and Synonyms
- Because good keywords are essential to good research.
- The more keywords you can think of, the more likely you will find what you are looking for.
Synonyms make your list of keywords longer. More keywords = better searching = more results. Look at the example below to get an idea of how synonyms can broaden your understanding of a given concept:
- Make lists of keywords for the main concepts of your research topic.
- Use single words or simple phrases.
- Be prepared that this may all change as you learn more information through your research.
- Be flexible and adaptable in your thinking.
- Use a thesaurus to help generate synonyms.
Many library resources offer the option to combine your keywords using AND, OR, & NOT. This can also be useful when searching online. Use quotation marks to search for a name or phrase.
- AND = All words must be present; helps limit the search.
- sustainable AND food system
- sustainability AND natural resources
- food security AND united states
- OR = Great for synonyms or variations of the same concept; helps broaden the search while staying within the subject area.
- sustainable OR sustainability
- sustainability OR conservation
- tiny houses OR tiny homes
- sustainable AND (agriculture OR farming)
- wind farms OR wind power plants OR wind turbines
- NOT = Exclude an unrelated term, or to weed out irrelevant results.
- renewable energy NOT biofuel
- (food waste AND restaurants) NOT grocery
- (daylighting AND commercial) NOT residential
Finding Keywords for Your Topic
This brief video (0:59) from the University Library at UNC Greensboro explains how to turn your research question into useful keywords.
If you would like more practice with keywords, check out the rest of their tutorial!