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Identifying useful keywords and search terms

In order to conduct an effective search, you must first identify key words, concepts, synonyms, and related terms to use in your search. 

Sample topic: how will global warming affect life in the Great Lakes states in the 21st century?

Key Words: words that convey the main ideas of your topic or question.

  • global warming
  • climate
  • greenhouse gasses
  • solar radiation

Concepts: words that describe the big ideas to which your topic is related

  • ecological systems
  • environment

Synonyms: words that mean the same thing as your key words

  • earth temperature
  • greenhouse effect

Related Terms: words that are closely related with key words, but not substitutes like synonyms

  • climate change
  • earth's atmosphere


(Adapted under a creative commons license from Oregon School Library Information System)