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Library Toolkits

This guide contains information about the library's Mini Lesson Toolkits including their online content and lesson plans.

Keywords Head up logo

Lesson Plan

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to: 

  • Define keywords 

  • Describe the importance of selecting appropriate keywords for their research  

  • Recognize the connotation of the words they select 

  • Interpret the layers of meaning and specificity of their keywords 

Lesson Plan 

  1. Introduce the concept of keywords and set the agenda for the lesson 

  1. Content: Watch the video on Keywords 

  1. Practice: Introduce the activity

    1. Students will work in pairs or groups of three 

    2. Once in groups, students will take turns holding cards up to their head 

    3. The student holding the card will be trying to guess the word on the card. Their partner/team will need to give them word or phrase clues to guess the word, without saying the word. 

  1. Once they guess the word, the next player can pick up a card 

  1. When all the cards have been guessed, the game is over. The first team to finish wins 

  1. Discussion:  

  1. What words were the easiest? Which the hardest? 

  • Example: Sustainability – how did you describe it? What helped you guess it? 

  1. When was it helpful to be more specific? Less specific? 

  • Example: President – Were you specific to the United States, or did you acknowledge presidents from other countries?   

  1. Which words had more than one meaning?  

  • Example: Drugs. Who used pharmaceuticals or medications as examples? Who used illegal substances? 

Video with Transcript


Keywords are the words and phrases that people type into search engines to find what they're looking for. When you begin your research, you might start with a question, but typing that full question into a search is unlikely to get you what you want.  


Keywords are the most important parts of a research question, and what you’ll use to search for information on a topic. Look for words in your question that get to the heart of what you want to know. Look for the most important people, places, concepts, theories, conflicts, or ideas in your question. Those will be the keywords you’ll need to get started. But we’re not quite ready to get searching just yet. Now that we have some keywords to start with, it is time to think carefully about what they mean, and other ways we might need to approach the idea.   


It’s important to consider similar words, or synonyms to your keywords. Sometimes the words that we use in everyday conversation are not the same words that are used in different academic conversations. For example, if you are searching for articles on plagues, you might also try broader words like disease or illness. Words that are broader will bring back more results, but may not address your topic exactly. You should also consider more specific words like bubonic. Being more specific about what you want to find will likely bring back fewer results, but the results you do get should be very close to your topic.   


You may also want to consider the connotations, or implied meanings, of your keywords, and think of alternatives. If you’re looking for more historical accounts, you might also try “black death” or “pestilence.” Each of these words is similar to your original keyword of “plague” but has different connotations because they were used in more historic contexts. If you are looking for information that is more medical or scientific in nature, you may try “bubonic” or “Yersinia pestis” – the name of bacteria that causes the plague.