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Searching for academic information

How to search for academic information in a structured way

How do you choose search terms?

From topic to question

Step one is knowing what you are going to search for. Let's say you want to learn more about how young people experience social media in relation to their mental health.

You need to formulate your research question

How do young people experience that social media affects their mental health?

From question to key concepts

Step two is to identify key concepts and terms in your research question. These words are sometimes called keywords.

For your research question the key concepts are

  • young
  • social media
  • mental health

From key concepts to search terms

Step three is to find synonyms and related words for your key concepts. The terminology varies between authors, disciplines and databases. You can use books, websites and so on, to help you find words that you can use as search terms.

In the example, search terms to start with can be:

young social media mental health
young social media mental health
youth Instagram wellbeing
adolescence TikTok health

This worksheet can help you to collect and organize the search terms that you find.