If you are using a computer to search for resources and information, you must be using Keywords.  

Keywords are words and phrases that tell a database or search engine what to look for.  Developing and using good keywords is an important research skill and will make all the difference in the type of information and research that you find.  Sometimes developing keywords will be really straightforward and easy but sometimes it can be a challenge to find the right keywords for your topic.

So how do I know the right keywords to use?

First, realize there will be some trial and error and that's perfectly normal.  We recommend that you keep notes about the keywords you use.

Here are some suggestions for finding good keywords:

  • Brainstorm about your topic.  Write down any words you can think of having to do with your topic.
  • Think of synonyms for those keywords.  Write them down.
  • Think of topics related to yours and write down any keywords you think of.
  • Look in encyclopedias or on websites for other potential keywords.  Write them down.
  • Do a search with some keywords and scan the results for other keywords you might use.  Write them down.
  • Use a database thesaurus to find keywords.  Write those down too.

Best Practices

  • Start simply with a few keywords and then add keywords to refine your search.  It is easier to narrow a search down then it is to broaden it out.  
  • Try lots of different keywords and keyword combinations.  Even you get good results on your first attempt, using different combinations provides a more thorough search and you might find great results that you missed the first time.