Manuscript Tips: Keywords

The following is the next installment in a series on writing for publication from Kris Greiner, editor in the Design Center. Explore her suite of editing services.

Here are a few tips for choosing keywords or key terms when submitting a manuscript or meeting abstract.

Some journals and abstract submission forms provide a list to choose from during the submission process. Select words and terms that are not in your manuscript or abstract title. Since titles are included in a general search – in PubMed, through a conference website, or even a general web search – you increase your chances of your work being found by expanding the list of terms used to identify it.

If you need to come up with your own key words or terms, take a look at PubMed MeSH terms. There’s a helpful PubMed tutorial for authors on how to find keywords and MeSH terms here.

Don’t use abbreviations as keywords. There are thousands of abbreviations in medicine and life sciences and what might be common for one field means something completely different in another.

Using phrases or terms is more specific than using single words.

Run a PubMed search on your selected keywords and see what papers come up. Alternatively, look up papers on your topic and see what keywords and terms other authors have used.

And as always, check the author instructions before you submit!

If you need help determining keywords for your work or have questions about MeSH terms, please feel free to contact me, at

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