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Brainstorming Keywords and the Importance of Synonyms

Check out the video below for a quick tutorial on how to turn your topic into keywords, including the importance of synonyms.

Keyword Generator - If you know your topic and are stuck on how to break it into keywords and create search strings from those keywords, try this interactive keyword generator. (See sample below.)

sample keyword generator

Identifying Keywords - If you are stuck on where to find keywords, how to pick the right synonyms, and how many keywords you need for an effective search, remember to focus on the most important nouns only, and check this research guide for more helpful tips and links.

Check out the video below for a quick explanation of how to go from topic to keywords to search string.

Keywords vs. Subject Terms

While keywords are how we conceptualize our searches, subject terms are how the database organizes topics. It's the difference between using CTRL-F to search for terms wherever they may appear in a source and using the index or table of contents to search for officially designated topics. For a helpful overview of how keyword and subject term searching differ and when you'd want to use one or the other, check out this research guide.

Most databases make it easy to browse or search subject terms.

In EBSCO databases (like SocINDEX), there is a Subject Terms button at the top of the page:

Clicking this link in SocINDEX will take you to the Sociology Thesaurus, which you can browse or search.

Often, the thesaurus will direct you to a search term you might not have considered. For example, you can see here that if you were searching for "abandoned cities" or "abandoned towns," the thesaurus would redirect you to "extinct cities."

In a ProQuest database (like ProQuest Social Science Premium Collection), there are a few more steps. You first have to select Advanced Search:

From there, select Thesaurus:

This will bring up a pop up window, where you can select the Sociological Thesaurus:

Click on Sociological Thesaurus and you will finally be able to browse or search: