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Identifying Concepts

Once you have stated your topic as a question, you need to identify the main concepts, or keywords, in the question.

Do this by picking out the significant terms in your research question.

How does drinking influence driving?

Do the current drinking and driving laws deter drunk driving?

Do statistics on drinking and driving suggest that drunk driving is a serious problem?

Note: Words such as "how" and "do" and "suggest" in the examples above are not significant terms. They do not relate to the main concepts of the research questions and would not be effective keywords. 


Once you have picked out the keywords in your questions, make a list of synonyms and related terms. This list may provide you with additional terms to use when searching for information. It may also suggest ways to narrow or broaden your topic.

For example:

alcoholism change DUI
substance abuse affect flying
intoxication result boating
inebriation cause machinery
addiction alter transportation

You will use the list of keywords you generate when you search for material in the library's online catalog, and online databases.

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