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Instruction Ideas and Activities: Keywords

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The Fruit Market -- Eric @ Goshen

fruit stall by Ross Parker, 2006 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

At the beginning of many first year courses I show this picture on the screen and ask the following questions:

  • What do you see in the picture?
  • Please be more specific than ‘fruit’
  • What other things do you see?
  • In the background is a large store?  Where it is?
  • Provide an example of fruit which is also technology. (Apple, Blackberry)

From the activity I pull out the following questions:

  • What are the key terms?
  • What alternative words could you use?
  • What more specific terms could you use?
  • What related or broader subjects can you suggest?

Reference: Edwards, A. and Hill, V. (2012) Games used in teaching information literacy skills. Available from [accessed 10/8/2014].

January Berry NOT Halle Berry - Caroline @DePauw

This lesson took place during a 50-minute session with first-year program students in select classes.
The focus was keywords, and a connection was made with a current campus speaker.  Using a reference to picture, students were asked to type "January berry" in a Google Image search, since these were the keywords recalled from mention of a picture in the speech.   In addition to the picture being in the results, pictures of Halle Berry and January Jones (with berry lips) are included.  This served as a good example for keyword searching and the use of AND, OR, NOT...  (not Halle Berry not a dish of berries).

Shared Google Sheet -- Tonya @ Grace

Have students log into a shared Google Sheet (spreadsheet) and answer a set of open ended questions about a specific research question.  What words would you use?  What alternative words would work?  etc.  Use Google Sheet to spur conversation about developing search terms in research.

Synonym Race - Denise Fritsch, ILF Conference Presentation

Goal is to get students thinking about alternative keywords for searching. In groups, students are given a keyword related to a sample topic. Groups have 2 minutes to brainstorm synonyms or use online tools to create the longest list. After sharing results and methods with the class, a winning group is declared.

Topic Worksheet - University of South Florida

Great worksheet on selecting keywords to research a topic: