Identify Keywords and Concepts

After defining your topic and questions, the next step in the research process is to develop a search strategy. That will require identifying concepts within your topic, and changing those to keywords to use as search terms. Doing this now will make your search more efficient and will save time. 

To learn how, watch this Generating Search Terms video tutorial, read the information below, and then complete the activity. 

Generating Search Terms video thumbnail

Example guiding question:
What is the impact of cyberbullying on society?

1. Identify the keywords, which are the “main idea” words.

  • What is the one main idea? cyberbullying
  • What words in our question describe what we want to know about cyberbullying? impact, society
  • So, we have three keywords initially: impact, cyberbullying, society

2. Identify concepts, which are “big idea” words to which your topic is related.

  • cyberbullying => Internet safety, bullying

3. Identify synonyms, which are words that mean the same as your keywords. In some cases, your synonym might be the better search term.

  • impact => effect, influence
  • cyberbullying => online bullying, cyberstalking, cyberharrassment
  • society => community, population

4. Identify related terms, which are words that are closely associated with keywords but are not synonyms.

  • cyberbullying => emotional damage, intimidation, defamation, slander, stalking, harassment, self-esteem, suicide

As you read about your topic, you may come up with more terms.


Now generate your own search terms using this Identifying Keywords and Concepts worksheet.


Next => Once you have your search terms, learn how to effectively build search strings.

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