This is the "About Keywords" page of the "Keywords and Subject Terms" guide.
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Keywords and Subject Terms   Tags: keyword_searching, keywords, subject_terms  

Last Updated: Jul 25, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

About Keywords Print Page

About Keywords

A keyword is a word that represents the main idea or feature of your topic, concept, or research statement.  You may have 3 to 5 keywords in your research statement and will develop lists of associated words and synonyms for each keyword.

Keywords are associated with synonyms.  A synonym is a word that has the same meaning as another word.  For example: "scared" and "afraid".Create synonym lists for each keyword.

Keywords and synonyms are essential for use in databases.



From Question to Keyword

Watch this short video produced by the University of North Carolina Greensboro Libraries. In less that a minute, you can see how to start creating a list of keywords for your research.


Identifying Keywords

To select keywords to use for a search, start by writing your topic out as a sentence or question. For example:

"How are children impacted by explicit situations in the media?"

There are several aspects to this question. First, extract key terms from the topic question (bold). Then list synonymous or related terms for each - you have a list of keywords to use!

Children Affect Violence Media
Kids Impact Language Video Games
Teens Influence Sex Television
Adolescents Consequence Drug Use Music

You will learn more about how to combine these terms and how to account for variations in spelling on the other pages of this guide.

Keyword Generator

Use this online keyword generator to create your lists in preparation to search online databases.


Where to find keywords?

Before you begin searching for information, you must identify keywords related to your topic. Find keywords:

  • within your research question or thesis
  • in encyclopedias used in background research
  • in bibliographies found at the end of books and articles
  • in a thesaurus (or in Word's thesaurus under the Review tab)
  • by asking your librarian, Julie Kent

Online Thesaurus

Visuwords is an online graphical dictionary where users can look up words to find their relationships to other words. The website produces diagrams in a mind-map fashion that show associations between words. Each node of the mind-map is a word, which can be clicked on to discover its meaning, additional word associations, synonyms and antonyms.

  • Visuwords
    Look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts.

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