Key words

Key words typically:

1 allow readers to judge whether or not an article contains material relevant to their interests;

2 provide readers with suitable terms to use in web-based searches to locate other materials on the same or similar topics;

3 help indexers/editors group together related materials in, say, the end-of-year issues of a particular journal or a set of conference proceedings;

4 allow editors/researchers to document changes in a subject discipline (over time); and

5 link the specific issues of concern to issues at a higher level of abstraction. WHO USES KEY WORDS?

There appear to be no formal requirements for key words, no rules for formulating them, little guidance on how to write them, and no instructions for reviewers on how to assess them. This is surprising in view of the fact that, presumably, a wise choice of key words increases the probability that a paper will be retrieved and read, thereby potentially improving citation counts and journal impact factors. Table 2.4.1 shows, however, that there are typical disciplinary differences in the percentage of journals using key words.

Table 2.4.1 The approximate percentages of research journals in different areas and disciplines supplying key words

Arts

Education

Psychology

Science

Medicine

Statistics

5

20

30

50

50

75

Hartley and Kostoff (2003).

Hartley and Kostoff (2003).

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