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MUI1020HF: Civic Engagement and Economic Development (Fall 2023)

A research guide for MUI1020 students completing their case study assignment


Selecting (and using) the right keywords for your topic or research question is key to successful secondary research. 

For each important concept embedded in your topic statement or research question, think about:

  • synonyms,
  • broader terms,
  • related terms,
  • narrower terms,
  • jargon, acronyms or professional terms,

Be mindful of:

  • spelling (regional variants)
  • ambiguous keywords or keywords that add little to or even limit your search, e.g. 'effect', 'impact'

Start building your list of keywords with the case study you have selected for your assignment.  Look in:

  • the title
  • the abstract
  • author- or - journal or database-provided keywords
  • the body of the text
  • the titles of works referenced

Use the full-text of relevant references from this initial study to identify additional keywords.  As your research progresses, continue to track the terms or phrases associated with other sources you find and if necessary, revisit databases you used previously to search on these new terms. 

Other strategies for generating a robust list of keywords include: