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ESL173 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 an issue and thought about your point of view, think about words, phrases and concepts that describe or apply to your topic. For example, if you've chosen to write about whether Facebook should do more to prevent fake news, some of your key words might include:

  • Facebook
  • Fake news
  • Duty to users
  • Harmful effects of fake news.

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

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, fact-checking, social media
Fake news Misinformation, disinformation, false content, fraudulent content, hoax news, clickbait
Duty to users User protection, user trust, duty of care, responsibility
Harmful effects Political, social, health, economic/financial

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.