Step 1 Determine the topic and define key words

How should you determine the topic? This involves nothing more than thinking about what you want to write about, e.g. your graduate thesis, article, etc. The crucial point of the first step is to define key words, i.e. individual words or phrases that express the content of the given topic. These words help to search for information in various databases, library catalogues as well as in internet search engines. It is important to determine key words that represent your topic aptly and at the same time are commonly used in the given field. By choosing commonly used words, you increase your chances to find information relevant for your topic.

How should I determine key words?

  1. Exclude prepositions, conjunctions and verbs from the topic, i.e. only nouns, adjectives and adverbs should remain.

  2. Take the remaining words and remove those which are too general and often connected with a variety of topics. For example, when searching for Parkinson’s disease, it is superfluous to use words like disease, illness, etc. Similarly do not use words such as method, approach, study, etc. In other words, leave out the words which are not necessary to describe your topic (see the appendix to this material for more examples).

  3. Only basic key words will remain. Before you use them for the search, think about whether these words do not have synonyms commonly employed in the respective field.

Determining key words for our topic

Topic: Injury Prevention in Ice Hockey

Key words: prevention, injury, ice hockey

Synonyms or similar terms: protection, wound, harm, accident

When we defined key words, we removed prepositions. Due to the fact that we will search in databases containing primarily English publications, we also choose some English key words and their synonyms.