Skills Hub

Identifying search words

To get started with your search, you need to have a clear understanding of what you are being asked to research, write about, or answer.

First, consider the following:

What is the focus of the question?
What is your understanding of this topic?

Second, break down your topic or question by keywords.

These words will form the basis of your search.

Example research topic:

"Discuss the prevalence of cheating in exams at University".
The three key terms or words are:

  • cheating
  • exams
  • university


  • Search similar terms or phrases as well as the keywords in your research question, like searching "college" as well as "university", for example
  • Search a variety of keywords, as not every author will use the exact same terms that you have chosen to write about a topic
  • Keep a key paper or even a thesaurus to hand to identify synonyms

Spelling Variations

Think also about differences in spellings and terminology, and incorporate alternatives into your search strategy.


  • behaviour (English UK spelling)
  • behavior (English US spelling)
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