Listing Key Terms
1. First, write one or two sentences about your topic.
2. Next, underline all of the specific words that describe your topic.
3. Make a separate list of these specific words.
4. Add to your list any other words that mean the same thing (synonyms) or are related terms.
5. Think of more words or phrases that describe the larger topic, of which your topic is a part. Add those to the list.
6. Think of more words or phrases that are subtopics of your topic which might help you find you useful information. Add those to the list.
Now you should have a pretty long list of words and phrases that you can use to search for information. If one word isn't in a book's index or doesn't turn up any results on an electronic search, try another word or a combination of words.

Example List of Key Terms
Say you were assigned a project about the ocean. You will have to focus your topic later, but right now, all you know is that you want to do something about ocean mammals like whales or dolphins.

1. Write a sentence about your topic:
I want to do my project about some kind of ocean mammal such as whales or dolphins.
2. Pull out the key words and phrases in the sentences above and list them separately:
ocean mammal
3. Now start expanding the list with related terms and synonyms:
ocean --> sea --> marine
mammals --> warm-blooded animals
ocean mammal --> marine mammal
whales --> cetaceans
dolphins --> porpoises
4. Are there any larger categories that might lead you to information?
ocean mammal --> ocean life, marine life, mammals, animals
5. Are there any words or phrases that are more specific?
whales --> blue whale, killer whale, humpback whale
dolphins --> bottle nose dolphin
6. Now you have a beginning list of key words and phrases to begin searching for information. You can put them in order like this:
Synonyms and Related Terms
ocean mammal
marine mammal
dolphins porpoises

Larger Categories
ocean life
marine life

Smaller Categories
blue whale
killer whale
humpback whale
bottle nose dolphin

7. Leave yourself room on the chart to add more key words and phrases as you discover them in your searching.