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GER102 Research Skills Guide: Identify

Identifying keywords to use while searching

Planning an effective search strategy can save you time and retrieve more relevant results. You need to start thinking about what terms will be most useful when searching for information.

  1. Conduct a topic analysis to Identify the key concepts of your topic; and then
  2. Brainstorm as many synonyms and similar terms/phrases as you can, developing a list of keywords.

This is a useful exercise because the language used to describe your topic may vary from source to source, and you don't want to miss out on a good source because it uses a different term to the one you are searching on.

Let's use this topic as an example:

Women in retirement, from the perspectives of psychological and social gerontological theory.

Key concept Other keywords to use while searching
Women Older women, female, gender, woman, 
Retirement Retire, retiring, retire from work, superannuation, career
Gerontological Gerontology, aged care, geriatric, elderly, senior, mature
Psychology Psychological, mental health, attitude, mental wellbeing, mindset
Social Sociological, society, societal, cultural, community, social perception

Now that you have brainstormed a range of possible keywords, you can employ search techniques and start conducting research in Primo Search the A-Z Databases and Google Scholar. 


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.

Topic analysis

Find additional keywords

 Tip: Online dictionaries and thesauri can help you identify synonyms.