RLCL 1004: Topics/Keywords

FYE information for Religion/Culture, Foreign Languages, and Philosophy majors

Defining a topic/keywords

Before you start to search for any information spend some time thinking about your search terms and your topic.  
There are a couple of tips to make your life easier:

  • state your topic as a question: What are the effects of raising the minimum wage on the economy? OR By what amount should the minimum wage be raised?
  • identify the main concepts (aka keywords): What are the effects of raising the minimum wage on the economy? OR By what amount should the minimum wage be raised?
  • brainstorm for synonyms for the concepts

Picking Your Topic IS Research

One of the big differences in college versus high school research is that academic research is circular - you often end up having to search for resources multiple times before finishing your paper or project because your topic shifts and changes over time.  In short,

Picking your topic IS research video describing academic research process as non-linear

Keywords - why use them?

Keywords are the words in any sentence which contain the main ideas of that sentence.  You could delete all the other words and the reader would still understand the basic concepts you're talking about.  Key phrases, aka multiple words that describe a single concept, such as "global warming" are used just like keywords.

Keywords are important because those are the words you want to type into searches to get the best results.  Most databases work best if you enter keywords, rather than entire sentences or questions.  For example, if your research question was:

Does alcohol consumption contribute to weight gain?

Then you might create a search that looks something like this:

alcohol AND "weight gain"

Including other words just muddies the water, and generally leads to a lot of irrelevant items in your search results list. Take a look at the video below for more information about finding keywords in a research topic.