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Identifying Keywords: Home


You will use your research question to identify keywords to search in the library databases. 

Why is identifying keywords an important step in the research process?

  • It is the language databases understand
  • It will help you retrieve the most relevant results when searching
  • It will save you time by searching more efficiently
  • You don’t know what words a particular article or database uses 


You should aim at identifying two to four keywords or phrases, and these will usually be nouns or noun phrases.

The first step is to write out your research question.

For example: Are self-driving cars safe?

The next step is to remove any words that are not relevant or descriptive. In the example above, this is the word “are”. So you are left with self-driving cars safe. The two remaining words or phrases are “self-driving cars” and “safe”

For each identified word or phrase, you will want to brainstorm narrower terms, broader terms, and related terms. For example, a narrower term for self-driving car is Tesla.