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ACC384 Research Skills Guide: Keywords (Topic Analysis)

Topic Analysis

A topic analysis will help you to clarify and understand what your assessment question is asking you to do.

You will generally be given three key pieces of information:

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

CSU has a list of explanations for common instruction words.

Let's have a look at your assessment and analyse the topic now. Your ACC384 assessment 1 is a 2,500 word report:

You are a senior analyst working for the large accounting firm Newcastle Accountants Ltd. You have been asked by your supervisor to prepare a report which includes a discussion on International Financial Reporting Standards. The report will be read by a client who is establishing a company in the Business Services industry.  They would like you to review a comparable company and discuss key accounting classes and policies used in the preparation of their financial accounts. 

To search for an appropriate company, go to this website:, click 'Industry', then select 'Business Services'. The selected company's financial statements need to be prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards.

You are to structure your report in the following format:
1. Executive summary
Include, in paragraph form, a summary of:
  • the purpose of the report (why it was written);
  • how it was researched;
  • what you found, in your discussion of International Financial Reporting Standards (section 4.); and
  • your reasons for choosing to discuss the points you included - why do you think they are the most significant accounts?
2. Table of contents
List the report topics using decimal notation. Include the main headings and subheadings with corresponding page numbers, using a format that makes the hierarchy of the topics clear.
3. Introduction
Prepare your readers to fully understand the report by:
  • giving some background information about the selected entity;
  • stating the aim/purpose of the investigation;
  • explaining the research methods; and
  • outlining the sections of the report.
4. Discussion of international financial reporting standards
Using the following numbering system and sub-headings, and including examples in each section, discuss the following:
4.1 significant classes of assets and accounting policies applied.
4.2 significant classes of liabilities classes and accounting policies applied.
4.3 significant classes of equity and accounting policies applied.
4.4 significant classes of income and expense classes and accounting policies applied.
4.5 differences if the accounts were prepared following U.S. GAAP (where applicable).
You could refer to Doupnik et al. (for example, Chapter 4 and 5), online sources and additional scholarly resources in order to properly discuss each section. You are required to use in-text citations that conform to APA 7th ed. referencing style and which should include, the author's last name, the year of publication and the page number.
5. Conclusion
Sum up what has been discussed and how your findings demonstrate the significance of international financial reporting standards when applied to the metals and minerals industry. Do not include new information.
6. Reference list
All sources you referred to should be included in a reference list at the end of the report, conforming to APA 7th ed. style referencing.
Topic analysis example:

Instruction words discussion, differences
Qualifying words & phrases Business Services Industry

Key concepts

international financial reporting standards, accounting classes and policies, financial account preparation, classes of assets/liabilities/equity/income/expense, U.S. GAAP



Write down the key concepts from your topic and think of as many alternative keywords and phrases as possible.

Thinking about your topic in this way forces you to describe your topic in "other words", which will provide you with some useful keyword alternatives as well as help you to cement your understanding of the topic.

For example, in this assessment, you could use 'international accounting' instead of international financial reporting'.

Dictionaries and Encyclopaedias

To start searching, it can be useful to begin with an encyclopaedia, dictionary or handbook to get an overview of your topic, or an explanation of words or concepts that are unfamiliar.

Find additional keywords

Dictionaries and encyclopaedias can help you to find additional keywords and get an overview of the concept.

In the box below, enter some of the keywords you've identified and note down any alternate keywords that you find.

Find your definitions by searching Oxford Reference Online