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ENG 1320 Library Tutorial: 1. Choosing Keywords

Start Here!

Ready to start your research? Taking the time to think carefully about your topic and the most important related keywords will save you time and effort in the long run.

In this section, you will learn:

  • Where to look for background information on a topic
  • How to make a mind-map
  • Why you need to narrow down your topic

The Big Idea: How should I choose keywords for my search?


In this video:

  • Introducing Credo Reference

  • Find background information
    on topics


  • Use a concept map to
    help generate keywords and topics

This video was created by CredoReferenceVideos, and can be accessed on

What is mind mapping?

It is also known as "brainstorming," and is very useful for generating topics and keywords for your writing. You can create a mind map by hand using pen and paper, or use an online tool from the list on the left of the page.

Where can I make a mind map?

Here are a few examples of web-based mindmapping tools:

( is free and has a mobile site)

(mindmeister is fee-based, but has android and iOS apps)

(mindomo is fee-based, but has desktop, web, and android and iOS apps)

I don't understand my topic... Help!

It's great when you get to pick your own research topic, but sometimes your instructor assigns you something... unfamiliar. Where do you even start?

Don't panic! Reference materials will be your best friend when it comes to background research on your assignment topic.

Reference materials are the place to go if you need factual information. Think encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri—simple, straight-forward information, presented in an easy-to-navigate format.

Credo Reference is a library database that has over 580 reference books, including encyclopedias, dictionaries (English and foreign language), thesauri, and books of quotations.  Use the search box above to begin using Credo.

Useful Links

Reference sources

Reference Databases at Alkek Library - links to Alkek's collection of online Reference databases that includes encyclopedias, dictionaries, style manuals, and more.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

What is a keyword?     A keyword is a word or a string of words (a phrase) that describes the main concepts of a topic. Keywords are the words used in the search boxes of databases and search engines.

So I made my mind map. Now what?     You can use your mind map to accomplish several tasks. You can use the keywords you generated from your mind map to search for information in the next phase of your research. If you get stuck and can't find anything on the topic you've chosen currently, you can go back to your mind map and use more specific terms, or use more general, broad terms.

Why should I use reference materials from the library's website instead of Wikipedia?    

See the Finding Resources page for more detail, but the short answer is this: 

  • Library reference sources are more credible and more accurate
  • You have access to resources that aren't available to the general public on the web
  • You have access to subject-specific sources that address topics in more depth
  • AND many library resources have a citation generator included to make citing your resources much easier