Skip to Main Content

UC 100 1: Global Scholars

Extracting Keywords

Keywords are the main concepts that describe your topic. The best way to find keywords is write out a brief (one to two sentence description of your topic). Highlight the verbs and nouns that you have used in that description. Are those words enough to describe your topic? When starting your search try to limit your search to two to three concepts. Let's take a look at this example

My research topic: 

How does global warming influence coastal cities and what are the solutions? 

The Main concepts:

Global Warming, Coastal Cities, Solutions

These are the main terms that describe this example topic. And we can use these as we start thinking about other keywords. 

Brainstorm with the worksheet:

What is a keyword?

Keywords describe the main concepts that you are researching. Enter Keywords into search engines to find useful resources. The right keywords can make your search easier. Searching will use different combinations of keywords to find different resources. A good keyword search will involve a degree of trial and error as you experiment with finding the best keywords for your topic. 

Video brought to you by Rebecca Crown Library at Dominican University. 

Finding More Keywords


The best place to start is to brainstorm other ways of describing the main concepts that you have extracted from your topic. 

First, start thinking about synonyms for your main concepts. For example, global warming can also be called climate change. 

But you may also find that you need to either broaden or narrow your topics. For example, the climate is a broader concept than global warming. And you can use an example of global warming like polar ice-caps melting as a way to narrow your topic. Keep in mind that the keywords you use could limit your search to one point of view on the topic. Also, think about what words someone with a different opinion of the subject would use to describe the topic. 

Pulling keywords from Research

Authors might use different keywords than you to describe the exact same topic that you are researching. Using their words for your search will make finding information easier. When reading background research or scholarly sources, take note of useful words that you can use to find other sources. 

Another great source for keywords are subject terms. In the description of the article or book in Consort, Summons, or individual databases, there will be subject terms. These subject terms are standardized words or phrases that describe a main idea in the article. You can search by subject term, but it is easier to do a keyword search and click on the subject terms in the database to open a new search. When search with subject terms, your language has to match the term exactly to find resources.