Monday, 16 May 2022

How do I create keywords?

When writing a paper, we need to include half a dozen or so keywords that summarise the themes, methodologies and contexts which our research has encompassed. Determining keywords is one of the last jobs to be done when writing a research paper, along with finalising the conclusions chapter, writing the abstract, and confirming the final version of the paper's title. 

It always pays to check articles written in our field and on the topic which have been published by the journal we are aiming at, examining the keywords those authors have used.  Then we can also use those. 

If we find ourselves in the lucky position of having keyword allocation to spare, we should consider adding closely related words and phrases. This will enable readers looking for similar topics will find our paper. 

While keywords are usually very short phrases of 1-3 words, if we are going to be writing for an academic journal, we need to check their style guide for their rules. Some journals will allow quite specific phrases; others will only allow general keywords. Checking ahead of time will help ensure we do not waste effort. 

And, like the conclusions, the abstract, and the title, the keywords too should contain no surprises. There should be a flow and a fit to all these elements. Clickbait need not apply. 

A very useful tool in this area is the Palgrave-Macmillan master list of keywords, which can be found here (n.d.). The list may spark ideas if we are suffering from a lack of inspiration.

Further, a very useful video created by TCFEX LLC (n.d.) exploring this topic:

I hope you find these resources useful.



  • Palgrave-Macmillan (n.d.). Journal of International Business Studies Keywords List.
  • Punch, K. F. (2016). Developing Effective Research Proposals (3rd ed.). Sage Publishing Ltd. 
  • TCFEX LLC (n.d.). Writing a Thesis, Paper or Research Project - Lecture 2: Emerald & John Wiley.

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