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Summer Start 2015: Brainstorming & Keywords


Whether you're looking for information in a library catalog, a journal database, or the internet, you will need a range of KEYWORDS  to search with.

First, try brainstorming what you already know about the topic. You might like to use concept mapslists or tables to organise your information. The brainstorming process should make it easier to select keywords you can use in your search.

Your list of keywords should include:

WORDS from the assignment topic

SYNONYMS - words with similar meanings

  • like: science fiction = sci-fi = fantasy
  • like: film = movie = "motion picture" = cinema

RELATED TERMS - terms related to the topic

  • like:  men = man, male
  • like:  women = woman, female

Also, consider names of BOOKS, AUTHORS, MOVIES, DIRECTORS, CHARACTERS, etc. as possible keywords.

Remember to also include:

  • spelling variations 
  • plurals
    like: woman/women
  • word variants
    like: film, films, filmic

Identify Keywords

Identify KEYWORDS in your research question

Before you begin searching, you will need to idenify the most important words in your research question.

  • Nouns, especially proper nouns, usually make the best keywords
  • Consider all alternate forms of each keyword, alternate spellings, and any related words or phrases that may help in your search. (singular/plural, synonyms, etc.)


Research question: Is the portrayal of women in superhero movies positive or negative?

: women, super-heroes, movies

Related words

  • women = woman, female, feminist
  • film = movie, motion picture, cinema
  • superhero = comic strip, super-human, hero, heroine