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POL 440: Research Seminar in Politics and History: Identifying Keywords

Overview of library resources

Identifying Keywords

Once you have a topic in mind, it is time to start identifying keywords and phrases that describe your topic.  The terms that you come up with can be used to search in the online catalog as well as the library's online databases. For example:  

Research topic/question:  The effectiveness of negative ads for candidates versus low popularity among citizens  

Identify the most important concepts in your question:  negative ads, candidates, citizens

Brainstorm alternate keywords and phrases.

political advertising



Synonyms & AlternativeTerms 

negative advertising

negative campaigning

attack ads


Synonyms & AlternativeTerms 




Synonyms & AlternativeTerms 


political candidates



Once you have identified your keywords, you are ready to string them together to locate articles and books. 


Strategies for Identifying Keywords

If you are having trouble coming up with search terms, see a reference librarian who can help you find the best terms to use to find the information you need to write your paper.

Following are some other strategies for coming up with keywords:

  • Look at your textbook, a periodical article, or an encyclopedia
  • Look for keywords in your search results in the online catalog and article databases:
    • Subject heading fields
    • Abstracts of articles often have lists of keywords or descriptors
  • Look at the database thesaurus or list of subject terms
  • Check out the Library of Congress Subject Headings for ideas.  These volumes are located at the Reference Des​k.


Reference Librarian

Linda Park's picture
Linda Park
(315) 279-5208