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A Guide to Comparative Cultural Studies and Humanities Research: Identify Keywords

Focusing Your Search

Identifying keywords will help you narrow your topic and save time in your research.

Step One: Paraphrase your research topic in one sentence:

Example: “I want to learn about how media affects an individual's body image.”

Step Two: Consider what you already know about your topic:

Example: “I know that photoshop is used on many images and body images seen in media may not depict reality.

Step Three: Think about what you would like to learn about your topic:

Example: "I want to know how these altered images affect college students' self-esteem."

Start Identifying Keywords

Keywords from our example topic:

From Step One:

Example: “I want to learn about how media affects an individual's body image.

From Step Two:

Example: “I know that photoshop is used on many images and body images seen in media may not be real.

From Step Three:

Example: "I want to know how these altered images affect college students' self-esteem."

Selecting the Right Number of Keywords

Video courtesy of the Kimbel Library

Building Your Keyword List

Make a list of the keywords you identified while focusing your topic and find synonyms for your search terms.

For Example:

MAIN IDEA: body image

  • RELATED TERMS or SYNONYMS:
    • body shape
    • body perception

MAIN IDEA: self-esteem

  • RELATED TERMS or SYNONYMS:
    • self-worth
    • self-confidence

MAIN IDEA: media

  • RELATED TERMS or SYNONYMS:
    • magazines
    • TV shows

MAIN IDEA: altered images

  • RELATED TERMS or SYNONYMS:
    • photoshop
    • image manipulation

Finding Synonyms and Related Terms

Don't know any synonyms for your keywords? Try:

  • Looking up your keyword in an encyclopedia such as: