How to Use a Thesaurus

Like a dictionary, a thesaurus can help you expand the way that you discuss your topic. A thesaurus contains groupings of words that are collected in terms of their meaning.

This is how you can use a thesaurus in your research:

  • Choose a word as a starting point.
  • Like a dictionary, find the word in the alphabetic arrangement.
  • Once you find the word, look at the words that are listed alongside the main word.
  • Choose another word that will work to replace the word that was your starting point.

You may also find a section in a thesaurus that will allow you to see what words are the direct opposite of the word you use as the beginning point. This process works in the same way, so follow the above steps, except in the last one, choose a word that works as an antonym to the word you started with.

Using a thesaurus can often be part of using a dictionary, as many online dictionaries will include these words at the ends of the definitions. This speeds up the process of finding the right word for your needs.

Online Thesauruses

If you want to find a thesaurus online, there are many options available. These online thesauruses are up to date and they can give you a long list of words to use in place of the word with which you began.

Online thesauruses are accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection, and they allow you to always have this option available to you when you are online.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Basic Research Skills course?

Book Thesauruses

You might also want to have a paper copy of a thesaurus available at your fingertips. This will offer a reference book in case the Internet is not available.

Some recommended thesauruses include:

  • Roget's Super Thesaurus
  • Webster's New World Thesaurus
  • The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus

These thesauruses can be borrowed from a library, or they can be purchased from a variety of bookstores and online shops.

The only trick to using book thesauruses is that the information that is available is not updated until the next edition is published.

You may want to make sure your thesaurus is up to date before you begin a new research project.

How to Use a Thesaurus for Research

There are a number of ways in which you might use a thesaurus for your research needs.

  • Writing papers: When you are writing a paper, you might want to use different words. If you have a word that does not seem to fit or you find that you have been using the same word more than once, it can help to use a thesaurus to find out what other words might be appropriate to include.
  • Creating speeches: Because many speeches will use a theme to hold the content together, it can help to use a thesaurus to create a speech that uses similar words, but not the same word. This speech will hold the attention of an audience without losing the message you want to convey.
  • Find new research ideas: When you are first researching a topic that is confusing, look up the main idea in a thesaurus. You might find there are other meanings and words that appeal to you and might cause you to think of a direction to take.
  • Learning the meaning of a word: If you do not have a dictionary available, a thesaurus can help. By looking up the word that you need to know, you will find other words that relate to your topic.
  • Writing poetry: Many poets use thesauruses to help choose new words for their poems. These words will connect to a main idea, and they will allow you to create a stronger poem because you are not focusing on just one word.
  • Rewriting a paper or article: If you have to rewrite something, sometimes adding in new words will allow the paper to become more exciting and effective. Sometimes you need to choose a different word with about the same meaning in order to create a strong result.
  • Increasing your writing quality: It is better to write a paper that does not include the same word again and again. A reader will be much more interested in your writing when you use a variety of words.

A thesaurus can allow you to have a stronger connection with your audience, as well as a better understanding of your topic. By learning what other words you can use, you can adjust the tone of your writing or speech, helping you to be as effective as possible.