Search Strategies: Keywords

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What is a Keyword Video

What is a Keyword video transcript

What are Keywords?

Keywords are the most important tools you use to do research, in a database or in a broswer. Without great keywords, you don't have a great search!

A keyword is a specific word that describes your topic, generally pulled from your topic sentence or thesis statement.

Let's look at an example:

Say your topic sentence is "Social media has changed the way we communicate at work."

Break that down into individual words and phrases. You know you can ignore the really common words like "has" or "at" or "way". Then look at what you believe the MOST IMPORTANT words and phrases are - those words or phrases that if you leave out, your topic might no longer make sense.

In this case, it would be "social media", "communicate", and work. See how that works? Look at the next example if you're still not sure, then try the practice at the end..

Keyword Tutorial

Another Example

Here's another example:

My topic is "Females have brought a positive element to the military."

My keywords in this topic are WOMEN and MILITARY and POSITIVE.


I want to find information about women in the military, not in any other occupation. So that needs to be a keyword. If I don't include MILITARY as a keyword, then I could get articles about women in education, or physics, or anything!

I'm not looking for information on men in military, so I also need to make sure WOMEN is a keyword.

Finally, I want to find articles that discuss the POSITIVE aspects of women in the military. If I don't include POSITIVE as a keyword, I might get articles that talk about roles of women in the military, or challenges, or other issues.

Why didn't I use ELEMENT or BROUGHT? Think about this: Are those words as important as the others? Can you rephrase your topic sentence without using them and still have the same topic? They don't convey a specific concept the way the others do... they merely support it. So try to avoid supporting words and focus on the keywords - the really important concepts that are critical to your topic.


When you start breaking down your topic sentence, think about the words that absolutely cannot be omitted, or Galileo will go searching down the wrong trail!

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