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How do I find keywords?

Finding good keywords is one of the most important and difficult tasks when searching for information. Pick out keywords from your search query, the words that summarize your query. These are the words you will use when searching in databases.

Define your subject

Start by planning your search. This means that you need to analyze and define your search query. Here are examples of what you need to consider:

  • Why are you searching for the information? Do you want a general overview of the topic or do you want to study it in-depth?
  • What type of material do you need? Books, articles, law books, legal documents or policies, statistics, or other?
  • How extensive does the material need to be?
  • Is the timeliness of the information a requirement? Can the material be of any age, or is it out-of-date?
  • What status should the material be? Scientific, popular, etc.?
  • What geographical area is of interest?
  • What languages can the materials be written in?

You can often add filters for these things when you search in databases, such as narrowing the search to a specific language or publication date.

Select keywords

Once you are clear about what the subject is, it's time to begin selecting keywords. To find good keywords that can be used in a search, you need to have a basic knowledge of your subject. Use encyclopedias, the web, textbooks and teachers to identify words and concepts that are common.

It can also be useful to figure out synonyms, abbreviations, general and more specific terms that you can use in the search.

Translate to English

Formulate the words in both Swedish and English. A lot of material is written in English, and to find it you need to search in English.


Have you found a good article? Look in the database and see what subject terms that describe the article. Then try to use those words in your search.