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Research Tutorial

Developing Key Terms for Your Topic

Develop lists of "key terms" for your thesis. Most library databases don't work like Google. You can't just type in your question, and get a useful answer. So you need a list of key terms—single words or short phrases that capture the most important ideas about your topic. These are what you will use to search. Here's how to develop key terms:

  1. Break up your question/statement into the most important concepts (usually no more than two or three).
  2. Write lists of words that describe each concept and use a thesaurus to help find synonyms.
  3. You may need to think of specific examples, in some cases, and not just synonyms.

Example: For a paper on college sports, you might write out the following:

Synonyms for College: University. Synonyms for Sports: Athletics, Basketball, Football.

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