The Journal of Extension - www.joe.org

For Authors: Choosing Effective Keywords and Key Phrases

Keywords and key phrases have several functions. They enable information seekers to find relevant articles through search engines; they serve to generate better search engine results overall; and they help readers grasp the contents of articles. (In fact, many information seekers report using keywords lists rather than abstracts when deciding whether to read articles.)

Choose effective keywords and key phrases for manuscripts you submit to the Journal of Extension (JOE) by using the following strategies:

  • Avoid making your keywords and key phrases too general. Terms such as research, results, access, and rural are too broad when used alone. They can be applied to almost anything. You’ll find an example of effective, descriptive key phrases at https://www.joe.org/joe/2009december/a6.php.
  • Make your keywords and key phrases as user-friendly as possible. Using one or two technical terms is fine; otherwise, choose terms or phrases that are more likely to be familiar to readers outside your specific discipline so that potential readers unfamiliar with certain technical terms will find and learn from your article.
  • Avoid abbreviations in your list of keywords and key phrases. For example, integrated pest management is preferable to IPM.

Selecting keywords and key phrases can be tricky, but it’s important. Applying the tips suggested here will help you ensure that information seekers will find and read articles you publish in JOE.