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COM120 Research Skills Guide: Keywords

Developing key words

Choosing key words to use while searching for information is an important first step. 

Once you've chosen your topic and an angle for your argument, think about words, phrases and concepts that describe or apply to your topic. For example, if you've chosen to write about which smartphones people should use, some of your key words might include:

  • Smartphones
  • iPhone features, Android features
  • Usability
  • User preferences

You should also consider whether any of these key words or phrases have synonyms or related concepts:

Smartphones Mobile phones, cellphones, iPhones, personal device
iPhone features Apple, iOS, apps
Usability User experience, convenience, accessibility
User preferences iPhone user, smartphone preference

You can use these words in your search strategies, when you're looking in Primo Search or journal databases.

Find additional keywords

Dictionaries and encyclopaedias can help you to find additional keywords and get an overview of the concept.

In the Oxford Reference search box below, enter some of the keywords you've identified from your assessment question and note down any alternate keywords that you find.

Find your definitions by searching Oxford Reference Online


Write down the key concepts from your topic and have a go at brainstorming as many alternative keywords and phrases as possible.

Thinking about your topic in this way forces you to describe your topic in "other words", which will provide you with some useful keyword alternatives as well as help you to cement your understanding of the topic.