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SOCI 321: Topic Exploration

Research Methods

advertisement for Joe Camel cigarettes featuring their mascot, a friendly happy looking camel, leaning causally in a tuxedo with a cigarette dangling from his mouth

Ads for E-Cigarettes Today Hearken Back to the Banned Tricks of Big Tobacco: A new ‘Joe Camel’-esque phenomenon may be igniting as the new fad takes a 21st-century page out of an old playbook

-Kate Keller for Smithsonian Magazine, 2018

Keyword Exercise

For the research question: Are vaping companies targeting kids with their advertisements?

The first step is to identify the most important parts of the question, the keywords, that get to the base of what we what to research.

The keywords might be:     

  • vaping
  • kids
  • advertisements

Now we need to brainstorm some of the different ways we can think about these key concepts. Those alternate keywords can be synonyms, broader, or more narrow terms.

Alternate keywords for the research question, "Are vaping companies targeting kids with their advertisements?"
Vaping Kids Advertisements
e cigarettes children advertising
electronic cigarettes adolescents magazines
big tobacco teenagers commercials
JUUL teens marketing
nicotine high school students celebrity endorsements
vaporizers 13-18 back to school sales
  young people kid friendly flavors

JUUL is specific brand of vapes; it gets more narrow. Children is just another way to say kids; a synonym. Advertisements are just one facet of marketing; it's more broad. All of these are legitimate ways of coming up with alternate keywords. You never know which one will be best for a particular database or website until you start looking! What works well in one, might not go over very well in another.


Use the same exercise with your own topic. Just grab a sheet of paper and write it down. You want something you can come back to and continue to expand on as you learn more during your searching.