Broader, Related, and Narrower Terms




The Research Guide has been discontinued.  Please use the newer UI&U Library Tutorial.

Help us keep course content updated.  Email the library at and let us know where you found a link to the Research Guide.  Thank you!






When brainstorming alternative keywords and phrases, it can also be helpful to think of these terms as broader, related, and narrower terms.

Let’s now examine the key concept native americans from our previous research question.

Concept 3: Native Americans, indigenous peoples, north american history, indians, north american indians, amerinds, abenakis, iroquois, navajo, cherokee

Key Concept Broader Terms Related Terms Narrower Terms
Native Americans
  • indigenous peoples
  • North American history
  • Indians
  • North American Indians
  • Amerinds
  • Abenakis
  • Iroquois
  • Navajo
  • Cherokee

You will see that:

Broader terms represent the discipline or subject area of your key concept,

Related terms are synonyms or other terms that describe issues or activities that relate to your key concepts

Narrower terms are specific examples of your key concepts.

You probably will not use all of the terms that you brainstorm in your searches, but they will help you to broaden or narrow your search as needed and find different types of sources.For example, if your topic is too narrow, try searching under the broader subject. If you aren’t finding any search results, try searching with a related term that you brainstormed.

Worksheet Question 3: Brainstorm some alternative keywords for the key concepts in your research question. Are there related, narrower, or broader terms that might be useful?