Fine Tune Your Keywords

In academia and the sciences, there are several reasons for needing good keywords, the words that are commonly used to describe and categorize education, research, and other projects. Authors often need a good set of keywords that can be used in the publication process to categorize their manuscript submissions. In addition, keywords are useful for navigating the various funding opportunity databases to facilitate the location of research funding opportunities targeted to specific interests. I have noticed that people often do not give much thought to the keywords they use to describe their research: the keywords are often too inclusive (eg, the scientist is an expert in everything) or they are too limiting for the purpose (eg, search for funding opportunities), or they lack any specificity.

For example, using the NCBI MeSH database, the search term “heart disease” yields 25 search topics each with numerous specific scientific and medical terms: Arrhythmias, cardiac; Carcinoid heart disease, Cardiac output, high, etc. Interestingly, Google Trends shows the terms that people in the “real world” use in their searches. In the US and South Africa, people search for “heart disease symptoms;” in the UK, they search for “coronary heart disease,” in the Philippines, they search for “disease of heart;” and in Russia, they search for “ischemic heart disease.” This just illustrates that people who are looking for the same information have different ways of searching for it.

We are familiar with the use of monetized keywords to optimize web content or other marketing efforts. In the sciences and medicine, it may be useful to consider your keywords this new light. There are easy ways to identify keywords that you may not have considered before; words that may actually be more relevant to your interests than the words you commonly use. This re-evaluation may have real benefits. First, you may identify better keywords for your purposes, which can be helpful for categorizing your work or facilitating your library or database searches, but, second, you may identify trends in your areas of interest that you hadn’t considered previously. Third, better keywords can help generate leads on funding opportunities.

Enter your website URL or text from an article you’ve written into a keywords generator to produce a list of keywords. Examples of free keyword search sites include Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Find-keyword, and Wordtracker, but others are available. Perform a web search for “keyword search tools” to locate resources that may provide alternate keywords to better describe your research interests—an added benefit could be an enlarged understanding of your own goals.


wernette_2014_webLearn more about ScienceDocs Editor Dr. Wernette


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