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The Keys to Keywords

by Meghan Kowalski on 2019-10-07T09:00:00-04:00 | Comments

Keywords are a crucial part of research. They are the key to starting your search and finding the best sources. If your keywords aren’t right, you’ll have trouble finding articles and books you can use. Here we share a few of our favorite tips for developing and using great keywords. 

  • Underline Your Thesis: Look at your thesis or research statement and underline the most important words, ideas, and topics. These are your starter keywords. 
  • Find Synonyms: Don’t get tunnel vision and only focus on the keywords in your thesis. Look for synonyms to those words. You can use a website like or a print thesaurus to help you find related terms. 
  • Expand Your Idea: Still stuck? Expand your topic a bit. What are the overarching ideas or topics that cover your topic? If you want to write a paper on gentrification in a D.C. neighborhood, it’s worth looking for articles on gentrification in all of D.C. or gentrification trends overall. 
  • Narrow Your Idea: Find an example you can use. If you’re writing a paper on Black Twitter, pick a specific account or kind of account and see if there are resources on it. 
  • Related Ideas: You can also look for keywords that are related to but not directly about your topic. If you’re writing a paper about healthy eating techniques, you might want to find articles on other healthy habits like exercise or sleep. Information you need may be included in an article on another topic. 

You can practice your keyword skills using this worksheet. 

Our librarians are on hand to help you develop keywords and show you how to best use them in the databases. We’re happy to help you get started! 

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