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Research in Psychology: Topics & Keywords

Choosing Search Terms

Search terms, sometimes called keywords, are used in the databases to help you find articles about your topic. You have to use single words and short phrases instead of the entire topic statement. Here is how to choose search terms:


1.)  Write out your topic statement

How do the sleep habits of college students affect GPA?


2.) Pull out the main concepts

Take your topic statement and circle the main concepts. The circled words will be your search terms.

How do the sleep habits of college students affect GPA? Words circled: sleep habits, college students, GPA


3.) Brainstorm synonyms

Think of some synonyms for each search term. These will be helpful later in the databases to expand your search. 

Sleep habits: Sleep deprivation, Sleep. College Student: University Students, Undergraduates. GPA: Grade Point Average, Grades.

Narrowing Down Your Topic

Thinking about the questions below will help you if your topic is too broad.

Broad topic example: Sleep habits

Questions to Consider:

  • So What?- What is the point of the paper? What about this topic?
    • Ex: How does it affect GPA?
  • Who?- Is there a demographic you can focus on?
    • Ex: College Students
  • Where?- Is there a geographical location you want to focus on?
    • Ex: United States
  • When?- What time period can you limit yourself to?
    • Ex: Past 10 years

Take some or all of these questions to form your topic statement:

  • How do the sleep habits of college students affect GPA?

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