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Search terms

Have a list of keywords / search terms ready!

Before your start searching--whether for books, articles, or reliable content on the open web--make sure you're clear about what exactly you hope to find. Look closely at your assignment topic or research question, and create a list of words and concepts that are useful for searching--then keep adding to it!

Here's one way to phrase a research question for this assignment...

What is the cultural, social, or political significance of [your-choice-of-artist and/or album]?

The main concepts in this question include the words: cultural, social, political, and significance. Plus--of course--whatever musician you've chosen to focus on.

For each main concept, create a list of synonyms, related terms, and alternate spellings. Often a thesaurus can be helpful with this step.

Examples of search terms useful for this assignment:

  • cultural: culture, lifestyle, conventions, style
  • social: society, community, trends, trending, norms, values, morals
    Also--you can focus on a sub-division of society that relates to the music or genre you're researching...
    women, feminism; Black, African-American; Latinx, Latino, Chicano; Asian-American, Korean;
    teenagers, adolescents, youth; etc.
  • political: politics, policies, activism, protests, protesting, advocacy

  • significance: influence, impact, effect, legacy

  • the genre of music associated with your artist. Double check on Wikipedia or other background sources to identify the bigger category of music that your artist falls within. Examples: Tyler the Creator > alternative hip hop; Rage Against the Machine > rap metal or alternative rock; One Direction > pop boy band

You'll need to experiment with different combinations of search terms to see what terms gain the most useful results. It helps to have a few options to start with--not just the words first mentioned in the assignment topic or research question.


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