In this tutorial you’ll learn how to brainstorm keywords for your topic.
Before you start searching for articles and books on your topic, it’s a good idea to brainstorm synonyms, related words, acronyms, and spelling variants related to your topic.
There are several reasons why you’ll want to brainstorm synonyms, related words, acronyms, and spelling variants.
- An author of an article may refer to a concept in their article using a certain word, acronym, or spelling while another author of an article on the same topic may use different words, spellings, and no acronyms.
- Brainstorming keywords may help you refine your topic.
- A list of keywords related to your topic will help you search databases more effectively and efficiently.
The first step in brainstorming keywords for your topic is picking out the main subjects of your topic or research question.
Lets pick out the main subjects for the research question
Would stricter gun control in the United States have an effect on school shootings?
The first main subject in the question is gun control. The second United States. And can you guess what the third is? School shootings.
The three concepts in our question are gun control, United States, and school shootings.
After you pick out the concepts, you’ll want to use a chart or a table to write down the main subjects of your topic or research question.
In our example we would write gun control, school shootings, United States
You should have at least two columns with keywords reflecting your research topic.
If you have less than two columns your topic is probably too general.
Next write down synonyms, related words, acronyms, and spelling variants for the words you wrote in the top row.
For example, for gun control we could write firearms, weapons, gun laws, gun legislation, and gun policies.
Underneath school shootings we could write school massacres, college shootings, high school shootings, mass shootings .
And under the United States we have acronyms US and USA, and also American and United States of America.
Now that you have a list of keywords you’re ready to start searching databases for information on your topic.
If you’re not finding information on your topic, try using different words from your list or contact a reference librarian at the reference desk.