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School of English

Includes resources of support teaching and learning in the Queen's School of English.

Understanding keywords

Academic writing requires: major & supporting ideas, use of appropriate vocabulary, ability to stays on topic.

To do this you need to understand the keywords which identify your topic. What are keywords, in both the question you pose and the answer you offer?

Eg. There are 4 verbs that are most often used when posing a question: Analyze, Apply, Argue, Discuss.

Slide modeled on one from Dalhousie University Writing Centre, Canadian University Writing.


Look at your Topic to determine the keywords in your answer. Let’s use an example you might be assigned in an undergraduate English, History, Sociology, Science class:

The Victorian period has been named the Age of Machinery with social, political and economic significance. Deliver a research paper appropriate to your intended area of study in which you discuss the machine in 19th-century history or literature .

If I identify the keywords I will have all the essential words I will need to go to the next step of searching for the books and articles I need to write a persuasive, on-topic paper.

Establish the key features of  the Age of Machinery. Deliver a research paper in which you discuss the machine in 19th-century (literature or history or sociology or science).

Now that you have your keywords identified you are ready to look for evidence to support your paper.