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Identifying Key Search Terms in a Research Question

Imagine you have been asked to write a paper that answers the question:
How can you motivate employees during times of organizational change?

Search tools would not do a good job interpretting that question as written here; you would need to break it down into searchable keywords and phrases. In the case of this question, the keywords and phrases that pop out right away are:

motivate employee organizational change

Think about what synonyms might also be useful as search terms. For example:

Keyword Related terms and synonyms


Organizational change

organizational behavior
organizational behaviour
organizational development
corporate culture
organizational culture


human resources

Don't worry if you don't find exactly what you are looking for right away.  Searching is a process and it can take time.  By trying different combinations of keywords in different search tools, continuing to collect any useful new terms in your results, and through a bit of trial and error, you will get a sense of what searches work best for your topic.

To help prevent frustration with the search process, it is a great idea to keep a list of all the search terms you have identified when you are doing your research; you can keep track of which words or phrases have worked well (and which ones have not) and you can add to the list as your research progresses and you identify new terms to search as well.

If at any point in this process you are feeling lost and need help, Ask a Librarian!