Now that you have a research question or your main argument chosen, write it out as a sentence.
Example: Do teens have a problem with drugs?
What are the main keywords in this sentence? The answer is "teens" and "drugs." We don't need to use the word "problem" here. We're going to search for "teens" and "drugs" and let the research guide us to the question's answer.
However, we may find as we search that the search terms we're using aren't retrieving the results we want. It is a good idea to come up with synonyms for your keywords or different ways of phrasing your question. Some fields of study use their own specific language to refer to various terms.
So for example: What are other words we can use for teens?
teenagers, youth, young adults, adolescents, children
What about drugs? How else can we refer to a "problem with drugs?"
substance abuse, drug abuse, drug dependence, chemical abuse, chemical dependence, addiction, and if you want to be more specific or alter your topic slightly: cocaine, marijuana, alcohol abuse, opioids, heroin, etc.
Make sure you keep track of which keywords you have used and which ones have worked for you and which haven't. For some examples of keywords, subjects, or topics for interpersonal communication.
Potential Search Terms
Counselor and client
Dating (Social Customs)
Cross cultural studies
Interpersonal communication in adolescence
Interpersonal communication in children
Interpersonal communication in infants
Interpersonal conflict in adolescence
Interpersonal conflict in children
Interpersonal relations and culture
Interpersonal relations in adolescence
Interpersonal relations in children
Invective (verbal abuse)
Man-woman relationships (not Infotrac)
Parent and child
Physical – appearance-based bias
Sex crimes (sexual abuse)
Search Terms for ProQuest
Child abuse & neglect
Children & youth
Families and family life
Gay & lesbians
Interfaith relationships (good for topic guide)
Multiculturalism and pluralism
Parents & parenting
There is a difference between a keyword and a subject search. When you search by keyword, the keyword behaves sort of like a magnet. It pulls out every single piece of information that contains that single word or words. Subjects are more like files in a filing cabinet. Your topic is filed under certain words or phrases in that filing cabinet, and if you don't know which ones, you may have a difficult time finding what you want.