This section will focus on the creation of keywords. An example question will be analyzed and broken down for keywords/search terms.
From the introduction, you know that a keyword is the concept that the research question is about. It can be one word or various words, called key phrases. Put simply, keywords are the words that are important in the question.
Let's pretend your professor has given you the following instructions:
Parents and many educators are concerned about how much time children are spending in front of a television screen playing video games. They are concerned about the negative effects of video games. For this paper you are to conduct research using the library’s online databases. Take a stance on this issue and write an argument either for or against letting children play video games. Make sure to use at least four references.
Now we will analyze these instructions. What keyword or search terms can you identify from the assignment instructions? Immediately, we can identify the following terms (in bold):
Parents and many educators are concerned about how much time CHILDREN are spending in front of a television screen playing VIDEO GAMES. They are concerned about the negative EFFECTS OF VIDEO GAMES. For this paper you are to conduct research using the library's online databases. Take a stance on this issue and write an argument either for or against letting children play video games. Make sure to use at least four references.
Now we have three keywords/key-phrases:
These keywords can be re-arranged into two research topics:
These might be a good start, but limiting yourself to three search terms or two research topics might not turn up the articles you’re hoping for.
Another good way to create more keywords/search terms or to narrow down your topic is to use the 5 W's and the H idea generation strategy. In this approach we ask a series of questions that will expand our topic. These questions are: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Let's explore this strategy using our previous example of video games and children.
It might be helpful to use a graphic organizer. Below you'll see an example of the 5 W's and the H - where the main topic is placed on the middle and the 6 questions are spread out along the sides. (You can find some helpful graphic organizer's at the Enchanted Learning website.)
Keywords from the 5 W's and the H
Using just the answers from the questions, we could add to our list with the following terms. Keep in mind that we will probably want to keep “video games” and possibly “children” in the search terms, as they are the main focus of the instructions.
Organizing the Search Terms
To avoid being overwhelmed by so many terms, organize them. Take a moment to organize the terms by re-ordering them by priority, where the first one is top priority.
Below is an example of the terms re-ordered by priority using a graphic organizer. Keep in mind this is one interpretation of assigning priority to the terms. It does not mean that this is the only way they could be organized.