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How Do I… Develop Keywords?

When researching, it’s important to search using essential keywords or phrases that represent the key concepts of your topic.

    1. Write down your research question or topic.
      • Example: How does sleep impact the academic success of college students?
    2. Identify the key concepts. Most keywords are nouns. Make sure to avoid vague or “fluff” words (how, the, of, etc.)
      • How does  sleep  impact the  academic success  of  college students?
    3. Brainstorm synonyms, broader terms, and narrower terms to create a word bank.
      • Sleep
        • Rest, nap, sleep schedule
      • Academic success
        • Grades, graduation rate, GPA
      • College students
        • University students, students, college freshmen
    4. Mix & match keywords while searching. If you keep using the same words while searching, you’ll keep getting the same results. Use different keywords together and keep track of what works for your topic.
      • Note: Connecting your keywords with AND will tell the search engine to make sure all of your keywords are included in your results.
        • sleep AND academic success AND college students
        • rest AND GPA AND college freshmen
        • sleep schedule AND graduation rate AND students

Search Tip: If you’re having a difficult time coming up with keywords…

  • Do some background research
  • Use a thesaurus to help you brainstorm synonyms
  • Do a quick search and skim the results to see what terminology is being used

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