Skip to main content
Montana State University - Home Montana State University Library - Home Ask the Library

Getting Started with Research

Choosing Keywords


1. Use nouns as keywords. 2. Ignore pronouns, articles, and conjunctions. 3. Consider verbs.

To identify keywords, first start by writing out your research statement or question. Then follow these steps:

  1. Start by identifying nouns and key phrases. These will likely be the main keywords you use to start your research. 
  2. Eliminate pronouns, articles, etc.
  3. Consider verbs. If they add context to your other keywords, you may want to include one or more verbs as keywords. 
  4. Finally, you can always add in search terms later, so try starting with fewer terms. 

4. Identify keywords as alternate search terms.

After identifying keywords from your research statement or question, use those words and think of synonyms. You can use synonyms as additional search terms. Example synonyms: concern, worry

Identifying Keywords:

  1. Start by writing your research question, or thesis statement. 

    • Example: Are social media users concerned about their personal privacy? 

  2. Underline the two, or three most important terms that represent your topic. 

    • Example: Are social media users concerned about their personal privacy? 

  3. Start with fewer keywords, and then try adding different search terms to limit your results


Keyword Tips:

  • Keywords represent the major concepts of your topic

  • Learn new vocabulary or keywords from your initial search results

  • Try variations of a keyword, or synonyms.

  • When you find a worthy source, get additional keywords from the title, abstract, and subject headings.

Choosing & Using Keywords Full Tutorial