Keywords for Research Article: an Effective Guide

With the myriad of online resources, it can be challenging to find relevant information.

Keywords are a way we can cut through the clutter and discover what we are looking for quickly. This is why incorporating the right keywords into articles, blogs, and websites is crucial. Identifying relevant keywords for research articles and incorporating them into your paper is the best way to ensure a top search engine ranking. 

The more an article aligns with the keywords a user searches for, the higher it will rank on SERPs. Optimizing your content with relevant keywords that match users’ search terms improves the visibility of your research paper.

This post details how to choose relevant keywords for your research article.

What Are Keywords in a Research Paper?

Keywords are words or phrases searchers type into search engines to find specific information.

In research papers, keywords are the terms that define a given topic and make it easier for searchers to find the content. Keywords help search engines match relevant search results with search queries, providing users with the most relevant and valuable information. 

Importance of Keywords in Research Papers

Keyword helps search engines decide which research article is most relevant to a search query.

When an Internet user wants to find something online, they typically enter a keyword that describes what they’re looking for. Search engine algorithm scans webpages to find those with similar or the exact keywords searched for. The more matches a content has with the user’s keywords, the more likely the article will appear in search engine results. 

The goal of every researcher is to get their article on the first page of the search engine results page (SERP). Discovering and incorporating the relevant keywords into your paper will improve your chances of higher rankings on search engines.

person holding on red pen while writing on book
Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

How to Choose the Best Keywords for Research Article

Choosing relevant keywords will improve your search engine rankings and ensure your research paper is found. Here are some tips for selecting the right keywords for your research paper.

1. Follow the Guidelines of Your Target Journal

Every journal has specifications when it comes to selecting keywords. Take the time to learn and follow your target journal’s instructions on keywords. For example, most clinical papers use terms drawn from the US National Library of Medicine’s Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). Other fields have their guidelines and requirements.

Most journals ask authors to present 5-8 terms. Some journals request only single-word keywords, making it easy for publishers and databases to organize the article, while others request phrases. Ensure you understand the guidelines for your target journal and follow them appropriately.

2. Identify Terms Related to Your Topic

Consider the terms researchers may use to search for papers related to your topic. For example, if your research article is on climate change, your keywords may include climate, global warming, earth, and biosphere. Target these keywords in your manuscript to ensure your research paper appears in the results of relevant searches.

3. Identify Terms That Summarize Your Work As a Whole

Identify and use keywords that represent and summarize your article as a whole. Some of these terms may be the main features of your paper, like population, setting, or variables.

Remember to keep an eye on the bigger picture as well. Identify the theories, processes, or concepts your paper covers, even if the specific names do not appear in your manuscript.

4. Include Your Techniques or Methodology

You may use key methods or experimental techniques your research revolves around as keywords. Be careful with spelling and capitalization, and also ensure that you use the officially recognized form of each key term. This is so your paper isn’t left out of searches for that keyword.

You can find the official, correct, and most commonly used versions of field-specific terms using Google Scholar.

5. Include Both Generic and Specific Terms

Avoid single-word keywords that are too general and vague. Make sure your keywords aren’t too long and not too short. Too short keywords will make the search unspecific. On the other hand, too-long keywords may filter your article to the point where it will be unindexed in search engines.

Use specific and general terms your potential readers will look for. For instance, if your article is on climate change, you may use general terms like “Global Warming” and “Earth.” And also more specific long-tail keywords relevant to your study.

6. Perform a Search to Test Your Keywords

Search Google and academic databases like Google Scholar for the keywords you want to submit. Do the keywords bring up articles similar to yours? If not, you may need to make some changes. 

This technique will also give you an idea of who your competition is. Examine the keywords they target to get ideas on how to refine your keyword list.


Keywords are an integral part of every research paper. They’re the means through which search engines determine which content is most relevant to a search query.

Choosing the most relevant keywords for your research topic is critical. The wrong choice of keywords can be detrimental to your article and even cost you opportunities to get read! On the other hand, the right keywords can improve your search engine rankings.

When choosing keywords, follow the instructions of your target journal. Identify terms related to your topic, including those that summarize your work as a whole. Also, consider using the techniques or methodology your research revolves around as keywords. Avoid only single-word keywords; instead, use both generic and specific terms. Finally, perform a search to test your keywords and refine your keyword list if necessary.

Co-Founder of INK, Alexander crafts magical tools for web marketing. SEO and AI expert. He is a smart creative, a builder of amazing things. He loves to study “how” and “why” humans and AI make decisions.

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