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Technical Issues In Publishing

Expanding Your Readership with Effective Keywords


Nathan Boutin, Associate Editor

March 2020

The goal of publishing your research is to reach the audience of scientists in your field. It is important to understand that most scientists are not scouring library shelves to find relevant literature. Today, search engines are king. They feed on metadata—more precisely, keywords—and you will certainly be asked by the publishing journal to supply a brief list of them.

Ironically, while keywords are usually an afterthought, they often have a monumental effect on your paper’s relevance and citation frequency. In general, tailoring your keywords is a delicate balancing act; you must ensure that your keywords are accurate and general enough to be searched but not so broad that your paper gets swept away in a deluge of similar research.

Here are a few techniques that you can use to optimize your paper for search engines and grow your readership.

While search engine optimization is usually the last thing on a writer’s mind, the unfortunate reality is that the merit of your scholarly work is not defined solely by its content but also its ability to be understood by a machine. Developing solid keyword habits will ensure the latter does not negatively affect your research.

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