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BIO216 Research Skills Guide: Topic Analysis

Identifiying keywords

The  important words within your assignment question can generally be separated into three categories:

  • The task or instruction terms tell how you are to deal with the content
  • The key topic or concept words to direct you in what to research
  • The limits or qualifiers tell you the specific focus of the topic or concept


You have a better chance of finding information and answering your assignment question if you have a clear idea of the concept of your assignment. For example, let's take a close look at the following task: 

Write a scientific review, using peer-reviewed papers to corroborate your statements, about how habitat fragmentation is affecting the genetic health of species.


Instruction words write a scientific review
Key concepts; qualifying words & phrases habitat fragmentation; genetic health of species


Finding alternative keywords

When starting your research, coming up with useful keywords can be difficult. Using a dictionary to find definitions can sometimes help the process by uncovering terms and synonyms.

Try typing the keywords 'conservation' or 'biology' into the Oxford Reference search box below and explore some of the entries. You might find some keywords or concepts you can use in your assessment tasks.

Find your definitions by searching Oxford Reference Online

Topic analysis