Skip to Main Content

Research and Instruction

Introduction to identifying key search terms

Identify Key Search Terms

Before you begin searching for scholarly sources, you should identify key search terms that can help you.

Identifying subjects

How to Identify Search Terms

Use your research topic, research question, and the important information you found during your background research to help you identify key search terms. Here are some examples that can help you with this stage of the research process.

  • Try using your research question
    • Example: How will global warming affect Louisiana coastal communities?
  • Pick out important concepts or keywords which you can use when you search for articles.
    • Example: How will global warming affect Louisiana coastal communities?‚Äč
  • Choose keywords that you can use to search the databases. Sometimes using exact words or terms won’t generate useful information, so try using synonyms instead. For example:

Initial Keywords or Concepts Synonyms
Global Warming environment, Greenhouse Effect, climate change, erosion, land loss
Louisiana gulf coast, gulf states
Coastal Communities  LaFourche Parish, New Orleans, beaches

Tip: If you are struggling to find synonyms, try creating a mind map like you would if your were brainstorming. is also a great source for generating synonyms.

  • With your list of keywords and synonyms, you can now begin looking for sources using Ellender Library's online catalog and databases.

Credit for Page

This page was created by Magen Nosworthy (Fall 2018 ENGL 489)