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IDS 803: Origins and Implications of the Knowledge Society: Generating Keywords

Planning your Search

Once you have a research question, identify the key concepts in it. Here's an example:

Research question: How does media coverage of mass shootings affect gun violence in the United States?
Key concepts: media coverage, mass shootings, gun violence, United States


Once you've identified the key concepts, it's time to start brainstorming additional keywords. There are three main ways to brainstorm keywords based on key concepts:

  1. Look for synonyms. Synonyms are terms that mean the same thing as your original key concepts:
    • "News coverage" is a synonym for "media coverage"
    • "Shooting sprees" is a synonym for "mass shootings"
    • "Firearm violence" is a synonym for "gun violence"
    • "America" is a synonym for "United States"
  2. Look for narrower terms. Narrower terms are specific examples or types of your key concepts:
    • "Television news" is an example of "media coverage"
    • "School shootings" are a type of "mass shootings"
    • "Intentional homicide" is a type of "gun violence"
    • "Kansas" is an example of a state in the "United States"
  3. Look for broader terms. Broader terms are bigger categories that your key concepts can fit into.
    • "Media coverage" fits into the category of "public information"
    • "Mass shootings" fits into the category of "massacres"
    • "Gun violence" fits into the category of "violent crime"
    • "United States" fits into the category of "developed countries"

We started off with four keywords, and now we have sixteen!