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Research Skills: Defining your topic

Information to help students find, write, evaluate and reference information for their assignments.

Analysing an assignment topic

Before you can start to research your topic, you need to analyse it in detail.

Let's look at this assignment topic:

Discuss how Indigenous groups can be involved in the Australian tourism industry. Give examples and discuss the impact this may have on the industry. Include references to a variety of sources including  journal articles, books and reports .

1. Look for the key concepts or keywords in the topic.

Look at  the assignment question and work out the main keywords :

Indigenous groups      Australian               Tourism industry

Instructional words like 'Discuss',  'Give examples' and' Include' do not need to be searched: they give you clues on what to do and what type of material to look for and incorporate in your assignment. The phrase 'can be involved' also helps you to work out the type of  information required.

2.  Find some alternative terms for your keywords

Now that you have worked out the main aspects of the assignment and what you are required to do, you can start to look at some alternative terms for your keywords. These will form the basis of your search strategy.  Think of synonyms (alternative words with the same meaning), alternative forms of the words (e.g. plurals and different endings) as well as related words that might be relevant.

For example:

Indigenous                           Australia                             Tourism industry

Aboriginal                             Australian                           Tourist industry

Aborigines                           Northen Territory                Ecotourism

Koori


See the section on Search strategies for information on using your keywords to begin your search process.

Defining a research topic

Defining a research topic for yourself is a more complex process. You may need to read widely in your chosen area to discover new aspects of a topic that can be researched.

To begin, write down a topic that interests you and what you know about it. Keep it broad to begin with.

Brainstorm some ideas related to this broad area or topic. What kind of things could you explore? For example, if your research is on Dingoes you could look at population, habitat, hunting, breeding, diet. etc.  Also think about time periods, geographic locations and groups of people that you could relate to this broad area.

Develop some questions that explore different aspects of the topic. These will usually be open ended questions that begin with terms like Why,  How,  What or Should.

Refine the topic as you reseach, using the information you find to inform your research question. Your topic will change and develop as you go along until you come up with your final research topic.

Watch the video below from the Evans Library for more information.

Next

Click to move to Step 2: Search Strategies

Subject Guide

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