Skip to Main Content

BIO 298: Biology Senior Seminar

What are Keywords?

Unlike Google and other web searches, library databases work best when you enter keywords instead of full phrases or questions.

  • Keywords represent the major concepts of your topic
  • Learn new vocabulary or keywords from your initial search results
  • Try variations of a keyword, or synonyms.
  • When you find a worthy source, get additional keywords from the title, abstract, and subject headings.


There are a few types of keywords that you can work with, depending on your topic.

  • Narrow - can you use a more focused word or idea? (ex. brain development, physical health)
  • Broad - what is the big picture idea behind your topic? (ex. Wellness, Health)
  • Related - are there concepts that closely relate to your topic? (ex. hunger, nutrition)
  • Similar - are there synonyms for your topic/concepts? (ex. hunger, food insecurity, food security, food desert)

Keyword Tips

  • Pick a topic that has two to three concepts.  The topic 'basketball" is too broad and will give you too many results to sift through, while "sleep and Iguodala" is too narrow and only gives you one good result.  Changing your topic to "sleep and athletic performance" gives you a good set of search results.
  • You will need to change your keywords depending on what type of article your looking for. If you search for "Flu shot" your results will be very different than if you searched for "influenza vaccine".
  • As you search for sources using the keywords, you will identify new keywords from abstracts, subject terms and titles. You can revise your searches with new keywords and continue the process until you find relevant sources.