A keyword is "a word that serves as a crucial ('key') element in a ...phrase, sentence, text, subject, concept, theory" (Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1998).

Keywords can be drawn from a range of sources.  Initially, they may come directly from the assessment task, as illustrated in the analysis below:

Identifying keywords from a topic

Keywords may also come from ideas generated about the assessment task (brainstorming) or from other reading.

A keyword doesn't have to be a single word - sometimes it can be a phrase (e.g. "stress management").

Because the concepts included in an assessment task may be expressed in a variety of ways, an important element of choosing keywords is to identify synonyms, and other concepts that are related to the topic.

All the examples included in the table below could be considered keywords:



Related concepts





laughter, comedy

jokes, fun
laughter therapy
humour therapy


decrease, lower



anxiety, pressure, tension

stress management

Note: Alternative spellings and singular/plural forms also need to be considered when devising keywords (e.g. humour/humor, therapy/therapies).


Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press, viewed 21 October 2009,