How to search relevant literature with the right keywords

When it comes to carrying out research for a literature review, PhD scholars are hit by a mind-boggling question - which keywords should be inserted in the search bar for getting most appropriate results? You should be capable of scooping out all relevant published research papers while writing your literature review chapter, but that becomes feasible only with the correct choice of keywords. Here are the tips that can help you with conducting a smooth and quick literature search across online libraries, Google scholar, Google search, etc. 

Break Your Topic

Break your topic into segments and fetch main terms. You could also define other major keywords for the main idea of your research. Think of synonyms (strictly synonyms, and not associated words) of your keywords related to the central concept so that you do not miss out on any important publication. 

For instance, if your topic is “the relationship between speech production and perception”, you will target both phrases - speech production and perception separately. With “speech production” keyword, you will find literature that would revolve around speech production. See the snapshot below. 

Similarly, with “perception” keyword, you will find the following studies. 


However, what you need for your study is the relationship between both the terms, so next you are ready to search for it. 

Use Synonyms

Find out synonyms and alternative phrases to selected keywords because you never know which keywords and phrases have been targeted for a particular research paper and journal.

For instance, the alternative keywords that you can use for “speech production” are articulation, sentence production, word utterance, word production and so forth. Similarly, you can use comprehension, identification, perceptual identification, identification procedure, speech perception as alternative phrases to “perception”. 

Use Long Tail keywords

Try to use long-tail keywords; ideally a phrase should be between two to four words. Single-word keywords are also acceptable, but they may show you inaccurate results.

For instance, if you target single-word keyword like “speech” you may find lots of results such as digital processing of speech signals, speech style and social evaluation and so on, but all of them would be irrelevant because your idea is restricted to the relationship between speech production and perception. So always use keywords that are related to your topic.

Summing Up

The bottom line is you should follow the above-mentioned ways to get extensive literature for your research work. You should also seek help from your supervisors as they know more suitable ways to collect literature with their experience. Finding the right literature for your research can lend it great value addition, while inappropriate or unrelated literature can render it trivial or vague. 

Category : PhD
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