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Research skills tutorial

Your guide to success!

Step 1 - Define your information need

Recognise the need for information

We all have information gaps; holes in our knowledge about a particular topic.

These gaps inspire us to:

  • ask questions
  • seek accurate information or answers
  • become a lifelong learner


Once you know that you need information, you need to ask yourself, what information do I need? 


Analyse your topic to identify keywords

Image of instruction words, keywords, and limiting wordsLook at your assignment question or topic. 

Find the keywords.  These are the significant words in the question; usually only two or three words.

To work out if it is a keyword, look at the word in the context of the topic.

Words like 'advantages', 'influence' or 'relationship' may have many meanings in different contexts. They are not keywords, but they can tell you the nature of the information you need to find.

If you are unsure of the meaning of a word, use a dictionary to find the definition.

Learn more about identifying keywords

Identify limits to your search

Limiting words help you decide where to start and stop your research, such as:

  • time period (e.g. last two years)
  • location (e.g. Australia or Queensland)
  • type of information (e.g. statistics or critical review)
  • quality or standard (e.g. scholarly, academic or peer reviewed articles)
  • word limit for writing (e.g. a 500 word essay may require fewer sources than a 10,000 word essay)


Learn more about identifying limits to your search

Brainstorm additional keywords

Use a thesaurus to find more keywords for your topic, and write them down. 

You can write them in a list, table, concept map or as pictures.  You should include:

  • synonyms (words that mean the same thing)
  • antonyms (words that mean the opposite)
  • related topics, broader topics, narrower topics
  • alternative endings for keywords (e.g. enjoying, happiness, joyful, satisfaction)
  • alternative spellings (e.g. organise, organize)
  • exact phrases



Learn more about brainstorming techniques

All about keywords

Duration 3:22

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