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Writing 10 (Hothem): Key Words & Search Terms

Key Word Chart

Look for alternate terms for each concept in your topic.

related keywords graphic

Keywords vs. Subjects

keywords vs subjects chart

Research Question to Research Strategy

Identify Key Concepts and Terms

Identify the key concepts in your topic:

Does fast food marketing in schools have an 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.