Top 10 Rules to Identify Keywords for Your Research Paper

keywords in research paper

During one of my research endeavours, I found myself at a conference, engrossed in a conversation with a fellow researcher about strategies to enhance the visibility of our research papers. They shared an intriguing insight—they had collaborated with journal editors who emphasized the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in boosting research visibility.

Curiosity piqued, I delved into the world of SEO, eager to explore its potential impact on my own work. As I embarked on this journey, I discovered that SEO revolves around utilizing the right words and phrases in research papers to ensure they’re easily discoverable by search engines like Google.

Armed with newfound knowledge, I began implementing SEO techniques in my papers. The results were remarkable—my papers started appearing higher in Google searches, reaching a wider audience in the process. It became evident that increased visibility translated into more readership and potential citations for my research.

Moreover, my colleague shed light on the concept of long-tail keywords during our discussion. Long-tail keywords, consisting of longer, more specific phrases, are known to enhance search appearances by targeting niche audiences. By incorporating long-tail keywords into my papers, I further optimized their visibility and relevance in search engine results.

In essence, my journey into the realm of SEO underscored the transformative impact of digital know-how in academia. Through strategic keyword selection and SEO techniques, researchers can amplify the reach and influence of their work, paving the way for greater recognition and impact in the scholarly community.


In today’s rapidly expanding digital age, researchers face the challenge of making their valuable contributions stand out amidst a vast sea of information. The visibility and discoverability of research papers play a crucial role in the dissemination of knowledge and the impact of scholarly work. To address this challenge, incorporating effective keywords becomes a vital strategy for researchers seeking to enhance their paper’s reach and influence.

Keywords serve as concise phrases or words that encapsulate the essence of a research paper, providing a quick snapshot of its content. When well-chosen and thoughtfully integrated into the paper, keywords can significantly increase citations, attract more readers, and elevate the visibility of the research in search engine results. By making a paper easily searchable, keywords enable fellow researchers to find and access relevant studies, fostering collaboration and further advancing scientific progress.

While researchers may not have direct control over the search ranking algorithms employed by platforms such as Google, they hold a powerful tool in their hands: the keyword listing section within their research papers. This section grants researchers the privilege to influence their paper’s ranking on search engines, giving them the opportunity to propel their work to the forefront of scholarly exploration.

Moreover, keywords function as invaluable filters in the vast ocean of available resources. In databases and search engines, keywords serve as crucial parameters that retrieve results based on their relevance to the search query. The more relevant keywords a paper contains, the higher its likelihood of appearing prominently in search results, enabling it to captivate the attention of readers seeking information on a specific topic.

The importance of selecting appropriate keywords cannot be overstated. These carefully chosen terms not only define the domain, subdomain, and research objective of the paper but also facilitate indexing, categorization, and targeted display of the article to researchers seeking related content. By including the right keywords, researchers can ensure their work is more easily searched, cited, and incorporated into the ongoing scholarly dialogue.

Why Keyword Selection for a Research Paper is Crucial?

Keywords are phrases or words that sum up your research paper. They increase the number of citations you receive and make your paper searchable (and easily discoverable!). Therefore, it is crucial to incorporate domain and methodology related  keywords of your research work to aid in the discovery of your paper.

For a researcher, making his/her research paper available to the research community, on the Google search engine within the first few search page results is a challenging task.  The appearance of an article in search results will push the research scholars to download, refer and cite articles in their work. This will help the researcher to increase his citation counts and improve his research profile to a greater extent.

Though the researcher does not have direct control over the journal search ranking on the Google search engine in which he/she has published the paper, still he/she can make his article rank higher with one simple option.  Keyword listing is one such section within a research paper, where the researcher has the privilege to push the ranking of the paper on the Google search engine.

Keywords, therefore, are vital for filtering the abundant amount of resources available. Keywords are one of the parameters used for searching an article in a database or a search engine, that in turn retrieves a bunch of results ranked according to relevancy.

The appearance of the document higher in the order is directly proportional to the number of relevant keywords used in that document. Then how to make our research paper rank higher in the search results and not be lost in the ocean of the documents stored on the net? The answer is of course choosing the right and relevant keywords.

The purpose of keywords in a research article is to help other researchers find your paper when they are conducting a search on the topic. Picking the apt keywords is crucial because these are used for indexing purposes. Well-picked keywords help your article to be more easily searched and cited.

In a research article, abstracts are usually followed by a list of keywords selected by the author. Keywords define the domain, subdomain, topic, research objective, etc. that are covered by the article. Most search engines, citation indexing databases, or journal websites refer keywords to decide where and when to display your article to the researchers who are searching for articles related to your article.

Keywords make your article easily searchable and ensure that your article gets more citations.  Hence it is essential to include and select relevant keywords and filter out the large body of unwanted material.

Let us take an example to see why keywords are useful. A paper titled ” New approaches in Leaf Image processing using Machine Learning Techniques”  describes, how some  Machine Learning Algorithms will help in identifying the leaf spot diseases like Bacterial Blight at the earlier stage using  Machine learning based Image Processing techniques. 

Suitable keywords for such a paper can  include the following 

  • Support Vector Machine, Reinforcement Learning ( From Machine Learning concepts)
  • Image Segmentation, Image Clustering (From Image Processing concept)
  • Leaf Spot disease names Bacterial Blight, Anthracnose etc. ( From Domain concept) 

Search for any of these keywords will lead a  research scholar to this paper.

Tips for Writing Keywords  for a Research Paper

Here are a few tips that will help you create relevant and effective keywords for your research paper:

  1. Start thinking about the terms you use to search for research papers related to your topic. Possibly these are the terms used by other researchers for searching the topic of your interest. These terms can be ideal keywords for your research paper.
  2. Most of the time it is assumed that a keyword means a single word. However, as per the research, search engine users are becoming more specific and they have understood that a single keyword is probably going to be too broad of a search to return the articles they’re looking for.A good example is what happens when you do a search for the keyword “security”, you may be in need of articles written on network security for cloud computing but doing a quick search on Google with the keyword security gives you results as varied as articles on security article in Wikipedia, Security of nation, the Social Security number,  security jobs in your local area or a recently released movie with title “security”.Using the keyword phrase “network security for cloud computing”, returns a couple of research articles about network security for cloud computing. Keywords should ideally be phrases of 2-3 words. Ideally can give single-word keywords but it may lead to many false matches. Note that actually, keywords are not simply a set of words instead they are phrases.Examples: Soft Computing for Leaf Image Analysis, Support Vector Machine for Fruit quality Identification, Neural Network for Leaf Image Extraction
  3. Identify the generally used alternate terms for the words written in your title. That is, include significant abbreviations, acronyms, and other short-form or substitute names for your paper. But care should be taken while using acronyms that may have other meanings. WWW would be an abbreviation since most hits would relate to the Internet. Similarly, other abbreviations like   i) SVM for Support Vector Machine, ii) NN for Neural Network and iii) Soft Computing for Neural Network, Fuzzy Logic and Genetic Algorithm can be used
  4. Do not use words or phrases from the title as keywords. Keywords should contain a list of words that supplement your title’s content. This is because most of the search engines and journal databases use Research Title for indexing purposes.TITLE: “Leaf Image Analysis for Pathological Issues Using  Soft Computing Techniques”KEYWORDSUnsupervised Neural Networks, Leaf Spot disease Identification,  Disease spot extraction using Image Processing.
  5. Keywords should contain words and phrases that suggest what the topic is about. Also include words and phrases that are closely related to your topic. (For example, if the paper is about  Image Processing for Leaf Spot Identification and Disease Classification use words like  Plant Pathology, Bacterial Blight in pomegranate, Leaf Disease spot Identification etc.
  6. If your research revolves around a key method or technique, make sure the term for it is located in your keyword. Example: If the method uses Multi-Spectral Camera for image capturing and processing then Keywords must contain terms like Multi-Spectral Image Analysis.
  7. If the paper focuses on a particular region use that as a keyword. If the paper is on Voice Analysis of Southern Indian Community for Age Identification then  Keyword can be “Southern Indian Community”  If the paper is Pomegranate Leaf Spot Identification using a Support Vector Machine and if the pomegranate considered are from the Indian sub-continent then the keyword can be ” Pomegranate plant of the Indian subcontinent“.
  8. If your article is about developing applications, check whether potential applications, issues or phenomena can serve as keywords (Smart City Construction, Plant Pathology,  Medical Image Processing for Skin Cancer, Sensor for Tsunami).
  9. The most important experimental techniques used in your article are worth considering as keywords.  For example, Stereo Vision for Robot,  X-ray analysis for pomegranate fruit etc.
  10. Some sites provide keyword generators or keyword planners to help you think of other terms you could include.

General Insights Regarding Keywords in Research Papers

  1. Number of keywords: Research papers typically include a list of 3-6 keywords, although some papers may have more or fewer. The specific number of keywords can vary based on the guidelines provided by the target journal or conference.
  2. Keyword density: There is no set rule for keyword density in research papers. The focus should be on selecting relevant and accurate keywords rather than trying to achieve a specific density. However, it’s important to include the main concepts and themes of your research in the keywords to enhance discoverability.
  3. Keyword variations: Including variations of keywords, such as synonyms or related terms, can improve the visibility and searchability of your research paper. This allows readers using different terminology to find your paper when searching for related topics.
  4. Keyword importance: While keywords are essential for search engine optimization and indexing purposes, their impact on the ranking and visibility of research papers can vary across different platforms and databases. Factors such as the relevance of the content, citation count, and journal reputation can also influence the visibility of a research paper.
  5. Keyword trends: Research fields and disciplines may have specific keywords or terms that gain prominence or decline over time due to emerging trends, advancements, or changes in terminology. Staying updated with the latest literature and research in your field can help you identify and incorporate relevant keywords.

Which Words Can not be Keywords in My Research Paper?

  1. Common words: Avoid using generic and commonly used words that do not add specific value to your research topic. For example, if your research paper is about the effects of climate change on coral reefs, using words like “the,” “and,” “of,” “in,” etc., as keywords would not provide any meaningful information specific to your study.
  2. Very broad terms: Keywords should ideally be more specific and focused to represent the main ideas or concepts of your research. For instance, if your research paper is about the impact of social media on mental health in adolescents, using the keyword “media” would be too broad and may lead to a large number of unrelated search results. Instead, you could use keywords like “social media,” “mental health,” “adolescents,” etc., to make the search more targeted.
  3. Highly technical terms: While research papers often include technical terminology, using overly specialized or obscure terms as keywords may limit the discoverability of your paper. For example, if your research paper is about a new cancer treatment method, using a complex and specific scientific term that only experts in the field would understand might make it difficult for other researchers or readers to find your paper. It would be better to use more accessible keywords that convey the main concept, such as “cancer treatment,” “novel therapy,” or “medical innovation.”
  4. Personal pronouns: Avoid using personal pronouns like “I,” “we,” “you,” etc., as keywords. Keywords should reflect the general scope and content of your research rather than emphasizing the author’s perspective. For instance, if your research paper is about renewable energy sources, using a keyword like “my study” would be inappropriate. Instead, opt for keywords like “renewable energy,” “solar power,” “wind turbines,” etc.
  5. Single words without context: Selecting keywords that consist of a single word without any context or modifiers may not effectively convey the essence of your research. For example, if your research paper is about the impact of exercise on cardiovascular health, using a keyword like “exercise” on its own would be too vague. Instead, you could use keywords like “exercise benefits,” “cardiovascular health,” “physical activity effects,” etc., to provide more specific and meaningful information about your study.

Remember that the goal of choosing keywords is to accurately represent your research and increase its discoverability, so it’s important to be strategic in selecting terms that best capture the main themes and concepts of your paper.

Let me show you an example of a Research Paper with a Title, Abstract and set of possible Keywords

TitleLeaf Disease Feature Identification and Extraction Using Deep Neural Network


Extraction of meaningful leaf disease features by applying image processing techniques is a problem that has been studied by the image processing community for decades.  Image processing research for leaf spot disease identification has matured significantly throughout the years, and many advances in image processing techniques continue to be made, allowing new techniques to be applied to new and more demanding pathological problems.

In this paper, a method for the detection and classification of leaf spot diseases affecting Pomegranate crops is developed using  Deep learning Neural networks. Throughout, we have presented tables and charts to compare the performance of the proposed method with state-of-the-art techniques. Experimental results show that Deep Neural Networks handle uncertainty effectively and they can be trained with limited data sets. The paper has also made suggestions for future research directions.

Keywords :

Image Processing for plant pathology, diseased leaf spot extraction,  leaf spot disease classification, segmentation of leaf spot disease, Machine learning for Leaf disease identification, Pomegranate leaf disease identification, Pomegranate leaf disease classification.

The Role of Conference /Journal Selection in Citations and Scholarly Impact

Please note that, sheer identification of keywords may not push your citation score. Selecting a reputable journal and avoiding predatory conferences and journals is crucial for maximizing the visibility and impact of your research article. By publishing in a respected journal, you increase the likelihood of attracting a broader and more qualified readership, thus increasing the chances of your article being cited by other researchers. Choosing the right journal involves considering factors such as the journal’s scope, target audience, impact factor, indexing in reputable databases, peer-review process, and overall reputation in the field. Additionally, it is important to stay vigilant and avoid predatory conferences and journals that may engage in unethical practices or lack rigorous peer-review processes.

These predatory outlets may hinder the credibility and recognition of your work. By carefully selecting a reputable journal, you position your research for greater exposure, credibility, and citation potential.

Visit my articles on ” How to identify and avoid predatory conferences and journals” and “Identifying Reputable journals for your research paper“. These articles will help you in getting your articles cited by many authors.


In the age of information overload, where research papers are easily lost in the vast sea of digital content, the strategic use of keywords emerges as a powerful tool for researchers. By carefully selecting and incorporating relevant keywords, researchers can enhance the visibility, discoverability, and impact of their scholarly work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I add a keyword synonym for the actual keyword?

You can certainly add keyword synonyms for the actual keywords in your research paper. Including synonyms can enhance the discoverability of your paper and improve its visibility in search engines and databases. When adding keyword synonyms, it’s advisable to place them within parentheses next to the corresponding actual keyword. Here’s an example:
Keywords: apple (fruit), banana (fruit), cherry (fruit)

In what order I should arrange keywords? alphabetically or in order of importance?

The order in which you arrange the keywords in your research paper depends on the specific guidelines provided by the journal or conference you are submitting to. Some publishers may require keywords to be listed in alphabetical order, while others may suggest organizing them based on their importance or relevance to the study. Therefore, it’s important to consult the submission guidelines or instructions provided by the target publication.
If the guidelines don’t specify a preferred order, you have the flexibility to choose between alphabetical order and order of importance. Alphabetical order is a common and straightforward approach that allows for easy reference and searchability. However, if you believe that emphasizing the importance or relevance of certain keywords is more appropriate for your research, you can arrange them in order of importance. In such cases, you should provide a clear rationale for the chosen order of keywords, especially if it deviates from the standard alphabetical arrangement.

Can I add acronyms as keywords?

Yes, you can add acronyms as keywords in your research paper. Including acronyms as keywords can be useful, especially if they are commonly used or widely recognized in your field of study. However, it’s important to provide the full expansion or definition of the acronym when it is first mentioned in the paper or in the list of keywords.
For example:
Keywords: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP)
In this example, the acronyms “AI,” “ML,” and “NLP” are included as keywords. However, the full expansion of each acronym is provided within parentheses next to the respective acronym. This ensures that readers who may not be familiar with the acronyms can understand their meaning and context.

Where do you put keywords in a research paper?

In a research paper, keywords are typically included after the abstract section.
Abstract: Begin by including a section labelled “Keywords” or “Key Terms” immediately after the abstract. List the keywords in alphabetical order, separated by commas or semicolons.

Can I take insights from the keywords listed in research papers of my reference?

Examining top-quality research papers in your area of work and analyzing the keywords they have listed can be a valuable approach to generate insights and identify relevant keywords for your own research paper. It can provide you with a better understanding of the terminology and keywords commonly used within your field. This method can help ensure that your paper aligns with established literature and facilitates discoverability among researchers in your domain.
By reviewing keywords from well-regarded papers, you can gain insights into the specific terms and phrases that are currently prominent and influential in your field. This approach also allows you to observe how other researchers describe similar concepts, methodologies, or research areas. You can adapt and refine those keywords to suit your own study while maintaining relevance to the broader academic community.
However, it’s important to note that while this method can be helpful, it should not be the sole approach for selecting keywords. It should be combined with other strategies, such as brainstorming related terms, considering your target audience, and evaluating keyword relevance. The goal is to create a comprehensive list of keywords that accurately represents your research and maximizes the chances of your paper being discovered by the intended audience.

When is the best stage in the research paper writing process to identify and finalize the keywords?

The stage at which keywords are identified in the research paper writing process can vary. Ideally, you should start considering and identifying potential keywords during the early stages of your research project. Here’s a breakdown of the typical timeline for identifying keywords:
Research planning and topic selection: When you are in the initial stages of planning your research and selecting a topic, start thinking about the main concepts and themes that define your study. These initial ideas can serve as a foundation for generating keywords later on.
Literature review: As you conduct your literature review, pay attention to the keywords and terms used in existing research papers that are relevant to your topic. Note down any keywords that are commonly used and appear to be influential in your field. This process will help you gain insights into the terminology and vocabulary used by other researchers.
Keyword brainstorming: Once you have a clear understanding of your research topic and have familiarized yourself with the existing literature, engage in a keyword brainstorming session. Generate a list of related terms, synonyms, phrases, and variations associated with your research area. This step will help you expand your keyword options.
Refinement and finalization: After brainstorming, evaluate and refine your list of potential keywords. Consider the relevance, specificity, and popularity of each keyword. Narrow down your selection to a concise set of keywords (usually 3-6) that accurately represent your research.
Incorporation into the paper: Include the finalized keywords in your research paper after the abstract and before the main body, as discussed earlier. Ensure that they are listed in a clear and easily readable format.
By identifying keywords early in the research paper writing process, you can ensure that your research is appropriately categorized, discoverable, and aligned with the relevant literature in your field.

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Dr. Vijay Rajpurohit
Author: Dr. Vijay Rajpurohit
Dr. Vijay Rajpurohit is a researcher in Computer Science. He loves to educate researchers and research scholars on Research Paper Writing, Thesis Writing, Research Grants, Patenting Research Work and the latest Research-related issues. You can reach him @ [email protected]