Brainstorming Keywords

What are Keywords?

Keywords are words or short phrases that represent the main ideas in your research topic or question.
In Google, you can search using full sentences. Library databases are not as smart as Google and do not understand full sentences, spelling mistakes or conversational language.
Instead, you have to consider the words that authors are using the write about a topic. 

To come up with keywords, identify the most important words in your research question or topic.


  1. State your research question or topic. 
        Do video games increase violence  in teens?
  2. What are the key concepts? Think nouns and noun phrases.
        Do video games increase violence in teens?
  3. List related terms
  • Consider how different people or communities talk about the concept.
  • Consider how language has changed over time.
  • Think of broader terms, narrower terms, or synonyms.

     4.Consider Using Some Search strategies

  • " quotations to search phrases.
  • * an asterisk to find word variations.
  • AND, OR, NOT to combine terms.  

Example: "video games", teen*, aggression OR violence

Consider these questions to generate more search terms

  • WHO: Who is involved? Whom does it effect? Is there a specific population you will focus on?
  • WHERE: Where did it begin? Do you want to focus on a specific geographic region?
  • WHEN: When did it begin? Do you want to focus on a specific timeframe?
  • WHY: Why does it matter? Why do you think we should investigate?

Try different search combinations and strategies! The process is iterative




Content last reviewed: January 21, 2021