I am writing a computer science paper that has a keywords section that comes directly after the abstract. Currently I have just one keyword in there, how important is that section? Do I have to come up with as many related keywords as I think of, or nobody actually uses this section and I can ignore it?

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    Database searches often use the information in that section. Most papers, in journal or online, make the keywords explicit. Many journals/societies put effort into a useful keyword taxonomy for their readers/members to use. So, yes, you likely can ignore the section (although the editor may insist on a certain number of entries), but that will make others ignore your work since you haven't helped them find it.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 15:57

2 Answers 2


A recent statistical analysis finds that the number of keywords has a small and significant effect on how often a paper is cited. This suggests that adding some keywords to your paper is good for you and for those would try to locate and cite relevant literature. Thus, you should not ignore the keywords but enter as many relevant keywords as the journal's house style allows.

Shahadat Uddin, Arif Khan, The impact of author-selected keywords on citation counts, in Journal of Informetrics, Volume 10, Issue 4, 2016, pp 1166-1177.

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    Please remove the dot at the end of the link, otherwise it ends up nowhere.
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 17:47
  • Note that the cited work does not describe a controlled experiment, so there is only a correlation between number of keywords and citation count. It might be possible that "better" papers just contain more keywords on average. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 12:12
  • Yes, and I struggle to imagine an experimental design for this question. They control for journal reputation, however, which sounds like a reasonable proxy for "better papers". Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 15:53

The number of keywords you should use depends on the journal you will submit your paper to. They usually require 3 to 5 keywords so they can direct the paper to relevant reviewers and editor.

It also makes it easier to get recognition since search engines utilizes keywords instead of scanning whole papers.

In short: No, you definitely should not ignore it. You should write down related keywords but do not exceed the number of journal.

Additionally each journal has a "Author's Guideline" documentation. If a submission fails to meet these guidelines, your paper is most likely to be rejected even before evaluation.

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