Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Introduction to Research

These pages offer an introduction to the research process at an introductory level.

Developing Keywords

Before you begin your search for information, you need to identify keywords and search terms related to your topic. The keywords you use have an impact on the results of your research. 

If the keywords you choose do not give you the results you need, try the others on your list! Databases  can vary, so not every keyword will bring you results in every database or use the search strategies.

Keywords and phrases can easily be found by scanning . . .

  • your initial research questions. To do so...
    • Identify the important nouns or main ideas in your research question. 

      • Research Question: What is the effect of In what ways does owning a pet improve quality of life for older people?
    • Generate synonyms for each main term, along with words that are narrower, broader, and related.

    • Quality of Life: wellbeing, health, happiness
    • Older People: elderly, senior, senior citizen
    • Pet: house pet, dog, cat, animal
  • encyclopedia and other articles used when conducting background research
  • bibliographies found at the end of books and articles
  • keywords or subject terms given by article authors and publishers

If you are still having trouble, try these:

  • Use a thesaurus to identify synonyms
  • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe the picture
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend

Keyword Brainstorming

Keyword Searching

Keyword searching is what you use when you are first beginning a search. Try to break down your topic or research question into the overall main ideas; these main ideas become simple keywords which you may use to search a Library database. Its good to keep a keyword list when you are researching a topic! This will help you remember the words you have already tried searching, the combinations you have used, and any new words you noticed in search results that you want to try in your searches later.