Skills Hub

Keyword searching

In order to research a topic, you first need to break down your topic statement or question. An easy way to do this is by removing any prepositions or instructive words from the question/statement. Once they have been removed, the words that are left are your key concepts. These words will form the basis of your keyword search.

Instructional words


Words used to demonstrate what needs to be done, or what action needs to be taken; e.g. define, demonstrate, discuss, outline.


Words usually used in front of nouns or pronouns, to link a sentence together. They show the relationship between words in a sentence; e.g. of, it, and, or, at.

You may already be using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with friends, but now that you are at University you should consider exactly how you are using these tools. Our Skills Audit encourages you to think about the importance of your digital identity and how you manage it.

Some tutors at Sussex may expect you to use social media in your studies; whether this is contributing to Twitter chats in the lecture theatre or commenting on your classmates blog posts. If you have a LinkedIn profile, future employers may even look at this when you apply for jobs after graduating.


Choosing your keywords

Searching only the words appearing in your essay title or research question limits your search to resources that only use those exact words to discuss the topic. As a result, there is a much greater chance of missing out on relevant information. To search most effectively you need to use a range of search words or “keywords”. Remember, a concept may be expressed by a single word or several closely related words.

Helpful tip: Using a thesaurus can be useful when trying to find similar keywords with the same meaning.


Topic: “Discuss cheating in exams at university.”


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