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BIO416 Research Skills Guide: Topic Analysis

Identifying 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 the evidence of how novel diseases are affecting native species and their ecosystems.  Use examples/studies from around the world. 


Instruction words write a scientific review
Key concepts; qualifying words & phrases novel diseases, native species, ecosystems


Finding alternative keywords

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

Topic analysis