ENGL 417 - Written Communication for the Workplace

This guide contains resources and learning advice commonly needed for written communication in the workplace.

Library Research Guide

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. Transcript.

If you would like more practice with keywords, check out the rest of their tutorial!

PATH: Lighting Your Way From Research to Writing (UNCG Libraries) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0



Keywords and Synonyms

Why Keywords?

  • 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.

Why Synonyms?

Synonyms make your list of keywords longer. More keywords = better searching = more results. Look at the example below to get an idea of how synoyms can broaden your understanding of a given concept:

Our advice: 

  • 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, be adaptable in your thinking
  • Use a thesaurus to help generate synonyms

Search Terms

Once you have decided on your topic, brainstorm keywords to use when you search for articles. You can do this by identifying the most important words or phrases in your research question. In the Libraries' article databases, you'll use these words to search; unlike Google, these databases do not understand full sentences. Here are some examples:

Research question:

How do neighborhood parks effect the environment, health of users, biology of the land, and the social aspects of the community?

Possible keywords:

neighborhood parks/design/urban planning/parks and recreation areas/benefits/public projects

Don't forget to use the * (asterisk) to get results with all forms of the work (park* for park or parks/design* for design or designs)

Sometimes the database will tell you what the keywords are, or suggest other possible keywords to use for more articles as well.  Look in sections of the articles called keywords/descriptors/controlled vocabulary.