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Brainstorming for Keywords

Once you've selected your topic, the next step is to create a list of keywords that can be used to search the catalog, databases and the Web to find information about your topic.  Below are some tips to help you start keyword brainstorming:

Take words directly from your topic
Write down your topic as a statement or question.  What are the most important words in your research statement or question?  What is the main idea?  Here's an example:

    Topic:  Do tobacco advertisements encourage teens to start smoking?
    Keywords:  tobacco, advertisements, teens, smoking

Think of synonyms for your keywords
You can never know for certain what words an author may use in an article or book to refer to a certain topic.  For example, an author may refer to tobacco advertisements as cigarette ads.  That's why it is important to create a list of words that have the same meanings as the keywords you take directly from your topic.  Your list of synonyms will provide additional keywords to use in your search.  Below is a list of keywords for the topic mentioned above.


Put it all together
Now that you have a list of keywords, it's a good idea to start thinking about how you will use these keywords to search for information.  When searching online resources, you will enter your keywords into a search box.  In a search box, you can enter more than one keyword at a time by using the word AND to separate your keywords.  Here are some possible keyword combinations based on the sample keyword list:

tobacco and advertisements and teens and smoking

tobacco advertisements and teen smoking

cigarettes and ads and teen smoking

cigarettes and billboards and youth and smoking
Source:  Arnulfo L. Oliveira Memorial Library
University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College

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