Skip to Main Content

How Do I

Identify Keywords

Before you begin searching for information, you need to identify keywords related to your topic.  The keywords that you use can have a profound impact on your search results.  Using the "right" words will speed up the research process, while using the "wrong" words can impede your progress.  See the steps for identifying keywords below:

  1. Identify the main concepts or ideas in your topic or research question [these will be your initial keywords].
  2. Brainstorm related terms or phrases, synonyms, words that experts use, dates or time periods, kinds of/groups of people, places, etc. and add these to your "arsenal" of search terms [using reference materials can be helpful with this step!].
  3. Once you have a list of keywords, you can begin searching for resources!
  4. As you search, notice additional terms that scholars and experts use to describe your topic and add these to your "arsenal".
  5. Through trial and error, you will learn which keywords yield the best results for your topic or research question!



Having trouble identifying #keywords related to your topic? Think about which words you would #hashtag if you were posting to a #social network feed.

How to Identify Keywords

Suffolk County Community College Library