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Brainstorm Search Terms

When you have a thesis or research question in mind, start by identifying the most important words or phrases in your topic. 

For example: 

  • What are some effective control methods for invasive weeds? 

Then, brainstorm additional keywords that are synonyms or closely related terms to each of the concept words or phrases you identified. Later, you will be able to try different combinations of these terms in your search. Different articles may use different terms, so brainstorming a variety of words will make sure you don't miss useful articles. 

control method* invasive weed*
prevent* technique* non-native plant*
remove tool* introduced  

You can use this worksheet to brainstorm terms for your topic. 

Interactive Virtual Brainstorm Worksheet

Printable Version of Brainstorm Worksheet

In addition to reference sources, Credo Reference has a mind map feature that may help you identify synonyms or related terms. For science topics, you may end up using both common and scientific names in your searches. 

Where Else to Find Potential Search Terms

  • Scan article abstracts for terms
  • Check subject headings on articles
  • Use the database thesaurus to find preferred terms 
  • Browse encyclopedia/Wikipedia page for terms 
  • Look at autocomplete suggestions in the search bar