Community Development

A subject guide to support research in the field of Community Development.

Library Research Guide

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 synonyms can broaden your understanding of a given concept:

image of a synonym word map

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 and adaptable in your thinking.
  • Use a thesaurus to help generate synonyms.

Design Search Examples

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.
    • "market-based redevelopment" AND "affordable housing"
    • "smart communities" AND Chicago AND engagement
    • "Kevin A. Lynch" AND "mental mapping"
    • "Maggie L. Walker" AND biography
    • "dog parks" AND "municipal government"
  • OR = Great for synonyms or variations of the same concept; helps broaden the search while staying within the subject area.
    • race OR ethnicity OR "ethnic origin"
    • "urban renewal" OR "urban regeneration" OR "urban revitalization"
  • NOT = Exclude an unrelated term, or to weed out irrelevant results.
    • ("Jane Jacobs" AND "Economy of Cities") NOT "book review"
    • London AND (gentrification NOT gentry)
  • Another example:
    • "food insecurity" AND (college OR university) AND students
    • (citizen OR resident) AND participation AND "community engagement"


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!

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