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Writing 10 (Snyder): Key Words & Search Terms

College Reading & Composition

Keywords vs. Subjects

keywords vs subjects chart

Selecting and Using Keywords

University of West Florida, John C. Pace Library, 3:50

As you watch the video, consider:

  1. What do you put in a database’s search box?
  2. What is a keyword?
  3. How do you go from a research question to a keyword?
  4. How many keywords should you use?
  5. What are some strategies for developing related keywords?

Research Question to Research Strategy

Identify Key Concepts and Terms

Identify the key concepts in your topic:

How does fast food marketing in schools impact on children's academic success?

Brainstorm for related terms:

"fast food"

  • "restaurant chain"
  • "burger king"
  • mcdonald's
  • "in-n-out"
  • "jack in the box"


  • commercials
  • "targeted advertisements"
  • ads
  • "native advertising"


  • men
  • women
  • female
  • transgender

Try Academic Search Complete > Subject Terms to find subject headings for your topic.

Tips for Finding Keywords & Subject Headings

  • Use a visual thesaurus like GraphWords. Snappy Words, Visuwords, or CREDO's MindMap.
  • Use references sources like Credo Reference to get background information and key words.
  • Most EBSCO databases have a tool to help you discover subject terms. See EBSCO Academic Search Complete > Subject Terms
  • Most ProQuest databases have a tool to help you discover subject terms: See PsycInfo > Thesaurus
  • When you find a useful article, look at the database Subject Headings and record them as possible search terms.