Brainstorming Strategy: Choosing Keywords

Brainstorming is the process by which ideas are produced using techniques like concept mapping, free-writing, etc. Choosing a topic can be a difficult process when starting an assignment, writing a paper, or working on an oral presentation. Brainstorming can be used to choose a topic, narrow down a broad topic, or even broaden a too narrow topic.


Keywords are specific words or phrases that relate to your main idea or research question. They are used in brainstorming to determine search terms to use in finding research or narrowing down a topic. Keywords can be specific search words found in your research question, synonyms, phrases, or jargon that are common in the field of study.

How to Identify Keywords

1. Start by identifying a broad topic or research question.


How does the use of social media affect the social interactions of adolescent-aged children?

2. Next, identify the main ideas or terms.

Social Media

Social Interaction



3. Once you have a list of terms, identify related words or synonyms. What terms or phrases are more specific? What terms or phrases are broader?

Social Media

  • Social network
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Social Interaction

  • Socializing
  • Social circle
  • Social behavior
  • Making friends


  • School-aged
  • Middle schooler
  • Teenaged
  • Pre-pubescent


  • Child
  • Kid
  • Juvenile
  • Youth

4.  Use these keywords and phrases to start searching for sources using the Grand Valley State University Libraries online databases to complete your assignment.

Information adapted from the GVSU Libraries Subject Guides.

Meet with a Consultant

Have other questions? Research consultants can help! We specialize in brainstorming topics, finding sources, reading scholarly materials, and evaluating research. 

Stop by the Knowledge Market during open hours or make an appointment to talk with a research consultant.

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Page last modified August 24, 2022