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Early Childhood Education: Identify Search Words

General subject guide for Early Childhood Education Research

Identifying Search Words

Make a list of a variety search words

  • Think of synonyms: different words and phrases people use when they discuss your topic
  • Consider broader and narrower words 
  • Also think of alternate spellings and abbreviations
  • collect more search words through your research 
    • early childhood education
    • early learning
    • early childhood development
    • infant development
    • kindergarten
    • preschool education OR preschool children OR preschool teachers
    • teaching methods
    • child development OR developmental stages
    • developmentally appropriate practices OR developmental tasks
    • child preschool psychology OR infant newborn psychology
    • language acquisition
    • early experience OR prereading experience
    • early parenthood OR parent child relationship OR parenting skills
    • infant care OR infant behavior
    • prenatal OR perinatal OR maternal
    • teacher child interactions OR teacher child relationships
    • family engagement OR family involvement OR parenting classes
    • family relations OR parent child relations OR parental influences
    • parent child relationship OR parent child interactions
    • social interaction OR social dysfunction OR peer relations OR social exclusion OR social adjustment OR interpersonal relations OR behavioral engagement
    • infant mental health
    • infant trauma OR childhood trauma OR abuse OR neglect
    • mental health OR depression OR stress OR anxiety OR abuse OR violence OR trauma
    • stress OR stressors OR toxic stress
    • adverse childhood experiences OR childhood adversity
    • brain development OR
      mental development OR cognitive development OR emotional development OR social development OR motor skills development OR speech development OR language development OR neural development OR
    • diversity OR equity OR multicultural OR cross cultural OR culturally-responsive OR culturally appropriate OR anti-bias
    • ethnicity OR culture OR minority OR immigrant OR bilingual
    • intervention OR therapy OR programs OR consultants
    • longitudinal (for articles that study subjects over a long period of time)



  • debate OR controversy OR disagreements OR arguments OR pros OR cons
  • causes OR origins OR problems
  • solutions OR resolutions OR proposals
  • consequences OR effects OR results OR repercussions OR reactions OR aftermath OR fallout
  • proponents OR supporters
  • opponents OR critics OR criticism
  • stakeholders OR spokesperson OR spokespeople OR advocates OR leaders
  • organizations OR associations OR “advocacy groups”

  • educational achievement
  • laws OR legislation OR regulations OR policies OR “court cases” OR “court rulings”
  • statistics OR data OR “facts and figures” OR census OR “opinion polls”
  • “historical trends” OR timeline
  • social aspects OR social impact
  • socioeconomic OR economic aspects OR economic conditions OR income distribution OR poverty OR income
  • attitudes OR beliefs OR behaviors OR norms OR values

Search Strategies

Search Strategies 

  1. Gather possible search words
    1. use words in your assignment prompts and readings as search words
    2. brainstorm synonyms for search words. Example: hunger = famine, starvation
    3. brainstorm broader search words. Example: a broader search word for "hunger" = food insecurity
    4. brainstorm narrower search words. Example: a narrower search word for "developing countries" = Bangladesh
  2. Strategize: Use different words and different search tools
    1. plan to search in different search tools (try several library databases, the internet..etc.)
    2. in each tool:
  • First, try broad searches, such as: famine
  • Then, combine words to narrow and focus searches, such as famine "third world" "genetically modified foods"

(click on image to enlarge)

image of advanced search page, showing how to combine terms as outlined in the text below the image

  1. Combine search words with AND to narrow your search. Example: hunger AND developing countries
  2. Put quotation marks around words to find phrases. Example: "genetically modified foods"
  3. Use OR to find synonyms for words and concepts. Example: hunger OR famine
  4. Option: Click "full text" to limit results to full text articles
  5. Option: Click "peer-reviewed" or "scholarly" to limit results to scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles

Video: How to Use Keywords to Form a Research Strategy

Source: "From topic to search results in two minutes! " by Holman Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Learn about strategizing keywords and how databases work when searching keywords.