/** * Simple encryption to hide email addresses from crawlers in webpages. * This code is Free Software provided under an MIT License. * Written by Diego Doval: bnaeQ0bvPXOnZQYgaZqp1ZQO * http://www.dynamicobjects.com/d2r/ */

CRLS Research Guide Cambridge Rindge And Latin Research Guide

Listing Key Words

Tip Sheet 2

Ask these questions:

What is it?

It is making a list of the words that will help you find the information you need about your research topic. They are called "key words" because they can "unlock" the doors that will lead you to useful information.


When will I use them?

You will use them when searching through books (using indexes) and through electronic sources (using search screens in online reference sources or search tools such as search engines or directories).


Why do I need to do it?

If you have good key words, you'll find the kind of information you want faster. If you don't have good key words, you can waste a lot of time not finding the information you need.


What are "good key words"?

Good key words are the important words or short phrases that specifically describe your topic and closely related topics. They are not long sentences.


When do I list them?

Start as soon as you have a general topic. You will be able to add more key words to your list as you focus and learn more about your topic.


How do I list them?

1. First, write one or two sentences about your topic.

2. Next, underline all of the specific words that describe your topic.

3. Make a separate list of these specific words.

4. Add to your list any other words that mean the same thing (synonyms) or are related terms.

5. Think of more words or phrases that describe the larger topic, of which your topic is a part. Add those to the list.

6. Think of more words or phrases that are subtopics of your topic which might help you find you useful information. Add those to the list.

Now you should have a pretty long list of words and phrases that you can use to search for information. If one word isn't in a book's index or doesn't turn up any results on an electronic search, try another word or a combination of words.


Can you show me an example?

Sure. Say you were assigned a project about the ocean. You will have to focus your topic later, but right now, all you know is that you want to do something about ocean mammals like whales or dolphins.


1. Write a sentence about your topic:

I want to do my project about some kind of ocean mammal such as whales or dolphins.

2. Pull out the key words and phrases in the sentences above and list them separately:

ocean mammal



3. Now start expanding the list with related terms and synonyms:

ocean --> sea --> marine

mammals --> warm-blooded animals

ocean mammal --> marine mammal

whales --> cetaceans

dolphins --> porpoises

4. Are there any larger categories that might lead you to information?

ocean mammal --> ocean life, marine life, mammals, animals

5. Are there any words or phrases that are more specific?

whales --> blue whale, killer whale, humpback whale

dolphins -->  bottle nose dolphin

6. Now you have a beginning list of key words and phrases to begin searching for information. You can put them in order like this:

Synonyms and Related Terms

ocean mammal
marine mammal
dolphins porpoises

Larger Categories

ocean life
marine life

Smaller Categories

blue whale
killer whale
humpback whale
bottle nose dolphin

7. Leave yourself room on the chart to add more key words and phrases as you discover them in your searching.

You will use these key words in the next step of research, "Getting an Overview".


Copyright © 2004 Holly Samuels All Rights Reserved