Skip to Main Content
  • Library AND Information Service

Find, access and use information effectively: a step-by-step guide: Identify Keywords

Find, access and use information effectively: a step-by-step guide

Identifying Keywords

Before you can begin searching for information in a print or online resource, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be easily be found by scanning:

  • Your initial research questions
  • Encyclopedia and other articles used when conducting background research
  • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles

If you are still struggling, then try these suggestions:

  • Use a print thesaurus or Microsoft Office's thesaurus tool to identify synonyms
  • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe the picture
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend

Mind-Mapping Software

Sometimes, you can see visual connections when you try "mind-mapping" software


Try SpicyNodes


Need some help identifying keywords? Try the attached exercises.


Make a list or use the chart below to keep track of keywords related to your topic. Keep it by your side when you start your research.

The keywords you use can have a profound impact on the results of your research. Using the “right” words will speed up the research process, while the “wrong” words can bring to it to a screeching halt.

If the keywords you choose initially do not give you the results you need, try the others on your list or use the search strategies listed under Step 2.

Training programme

The Library and Information Service offers a wide range of group training sessions with the main focus on enhancing the information literacy skills of all students at Stellenbosch University. Book a specific training session or consult the undergraduate or postgraduate training programme to see a list of all training sessions available for specific target groups.