Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
JCU logo

Search Smarter: Finding Information in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences: Step 1: Keywords & Synonyms

What are keywords?

Keywords are the main words or phrases that outline what your topic is about.They represent the important concepts or ideas in your research question.

To find information for your assignment in OneSearch, databases, or on the internet, you will need to decide which words you are going to use in your search. 

To be able to do a good search, you need to analyse your assignment question and identify what keywords best describe your assignment topic. 

Words like discuss and outline are not keywords.  They describe what you must do in your assignment. 

Example assignment question

Discuss the impact of multiculturalism on Australian society

 The keywords in the above example are:





What are synonyms?

Synonyms can be:

• Different spellings of same word eg. colour OR color

• Similar meanings/concepts eg. greenhouse effect OR global warming

To identify synonyms use:

• Thesauri and lists in a database

• Dictionaries (online dictionary available via Credo)

• Encyclopaedias

• Discussions with other people (lecturers, tutors, peer groups)

Example assignment question

Discuss the impact of multiculturalism on Australian society

Keyword 1 synonyms Keyword 2 synonyms Keyword 3 synonyms
Multiculturalism Australia Society
immigration Australian Culture
diversity Australia's Identity

Here is a Search strategy work sheet to help you think through your keywords and synonyms, and record your search strategies.

Search strategy work sheet

Using Credo's mind map

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country