Step 1: Begin with your task and topic.
Read over your task as assigned. Look for any words that express the main concepts.
Step 2: Generate additional keywords.
Brainstorm more terms you can use in searching and writing. There are specific strategies you can use to help you with this step.
- Think of synonyms of each of the words you already have on your list.
Example: Teens has many synonyms including teen, teenager, teenagers, adolescent, youths, and so on. Criminals might also be called offenders. You might find useful information about colleges by searching for universities. This is equally true for ideas that are often abbreviated. Example: GMO is the abbreviation for genetically modified organisms; both terms are useful in searching.
- Add plural and singular forms of the words. Search engines need to be told when you want more than one of an idea. Example: statue is different to a search engine compared to statues.
- Think about related terms. Use the 5 Ws to prompt your thinking. Answer the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Which? How? Example: Is your search tied to the whole United States or just New York State? Was there an incident or case study that occurred in a specific year or place?
- Think about broader or narrower terms that might be of use. Example: The placement of Confederate monuments might be part of a larger discussion of hatred or racism or extremism.
- Consider other forms of the same word. Example: sleep, sleeps, sleeping, sleeper, ... You can sometimes use a wildcard search to capture the family of words/ideas if they all have a common stem. Example: Use sleep* to simultaneously search for all words/ideas that begin with sleep.
Step 3: Add to your list of keywords throughout your search.
As you search and read articles, you will encounter new ways of talking about ideas related to your search. Add to your list.
Remember: The words on your list will help you find the BEST information possible. These same words will help you write (create) your best product (essay, presentation, speech).