Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

The Research Process

A guide to start you on your research journey!


What are keywords? 

Keywords are key concepts/ideas that are found within your research question or thesis statement. These are the words you will use to conduct your search. 

Why use keywords?

Databases function differently from search engines such as Google. If you type a full sentence into the search bar, you aren't likely to get any results. The database search engine is designed to search results for every word in the query. Keep your searches as simple as possible by using the words that are most important to your topic. 

Generating Keywords

Some of the first possible keywords for your search can be found in the research question by choosing the most important aspects of the research question. Let's look at a few examples:

How does caffeine affect the memory of college students?

Is using a cell phone while driving dangerous?

Does racial profiling against black men in America play a role in increasing poverty within black communities?

In the questions above, the central ideas of each topic are noted in red. Instead of typing the whole question into the search bar, we should use the red words as keywords.

Generating Additional Keywords

  • Think about your topic/question in terms of who, what, when, where, why, and how
  • Use synonyms - we have different ways of talking about the same things. 
  • Brainstorm words/concepts related to each keyword
  • Scan background research and abstracts to look for words used repeatedly. Try those words in another search.
  • Look at the subject terms listed for an article you have already found and like.