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Stage 2: Developing the Search: Finding Terminology

Finding Terminology, or, "What Words to use for your Search"

Building a list of keywords for your search is a process. The following video is a brief overview that highlights this process.

When developing your keywords in the following sections, keep in mind that:

  • If your keywords are too specific, your results will likely not reflect all of the relevant literature (thus increasing bias)
  • If your keywords are too vague, your search will yield an overwhelming number of results which will be extremely time-consuming to analyze and likely beyond the scope of the research question

1. Identify your Research Question's Main Concepts

The key concepts of your search should be clearly reflected by the research question. If they are not easily identifiable, consider rephrasing your question.

Example Research Question (Main Concepts Underlined)

  • SEARCH PLAN When main concepts are identified, document them in your search plan.

2. Generate a List of Keywords Relevant to your Main Concepts

Next, create a list of keywords that are synonymous or related to the main concepts that you've identified.

To generate a comprehensive list, refer to a dictionary, thesaurus, and relevant articles, and apply the following strategies:

The list of keywords that you generate and use in your search are called your "search terms".

  • SEARCH PLAN Input search terms into search plan

3. Examine Terminology from Related Reviews

When developing your research question, you should have examined existing synthesis reviews to ensure that your question was novel. When developing your search, examining existing reviews is for a different purpose: informing your search strategy.

Many published synthesis reviews are required to append a copy of their search strategies. Look at the terminology that is used in reviews on related topics, even if not all concepts or elements of the paper are relevant.

To identify existing search strategies, you will:

You can find similar reviews by searching for them the same way that you did in our guide for Finding Relevant Reviews.

  • SEARCH PLAN  Add any other search terms that you identified from existing search strategies
  • SEARCH STRATEGY  Save the search strategies that you find to save you time when developing your own strategies