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Mapping Your Research: 3. Identify Keywords

This guide helps with understanding and planning the research process.

Break Down Your Topic/ Topic Question

A good research question will allow you to pull out the different key concepts that will cover your research.  Our example, "In what ways (if any) do political affiliations play a factor in personal perceptions on climate change?" has 3 distinct concepts:

  • Political affiliations
  • Personal perceptions
  • Climate change

These concepts will become the keywords you will use to search the Library Catalog and online article databases. Keep in mind that not every author will use the same keywords to describe a topic: one author might write about "global warming" instead of climate change and another might use the phrase "views" instead of perceptions.

For this reason, you will want to identify some synonyms and related terms for each of your keywords before you start searching. For example:

  • Political affiliations
    • Synonyms/related terms: politics, political leanings, political parties, Republican, Democrat, right wing, left wing
  • Personal perceptions
    • Synonyms/related terms: personal views, public opinion, perceptions, opinions, views, attitudes
  • Climate change
    • Synonyms/related terms: global warming

Once you have broken your topic down into keywords, you can then string them together to build a search strategy, which you will learn to do in the next segment of this guide.