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EER504 Research Skills Guide: GETTING STARTED

Topic analysis

A topic analysis will help you to clarify what your assessment question is asking you to do. It is also the foundation upon which you will build a solid search strategy - so make sure you don't skip this step!

The video below describes the process of conducting a topic analysis.

Commonly used sources

The sources of information you will use will depend upon the question you need to address in your assessment task. Below are the most commons sources you would use in your assignments, along with their main features.


  • Get an overview, introduction, and/or background information about a topic;
  • Get in-depth information about a broad topic.

Journal articles

  • Access the latest research and ideas on your topic;
  • Learn about the varied perspectives on a topic;
  • Examine a topic in very specific detail.


  • Get the latest current affairs;
  • Investigate public attitudes to topics and issues.


  • Locate reports and documents from government, academic, or professional organisations;
  • Find background or introductory information;
  • Familiarise yourself with a topic.

Reference Material

  • Find factual and statistical information on a topic;
  • Get an overview of a subject;
  • Find definitions;
  • Use subject specific resources to decipher the 'jargon' of a topic.

Interpreting Citations

Recommended readings in your subject site can give you an idea of the type of resources that your lecturer values.

Distinguishing between citations for books, book chapters, journal articles and websites can help you to search for the items in Primo Search, Google Scholar, or Journal Databases.

Below we list some of the most common resources and their citation structure when formatted in the APA 6th style.

Book citations should have the following structure: Author/s. Year of publication in parentheses. Book title in italics. Edition in parentheses. Place of publication and publisher.

Book section/chapter citations should have the following structure: Author/s. Year of publication in parentheses. Chapter title. Editor name/s. Book title in italics. Page numbers. Place of publication and publisher.

Journal article citations should have the following structure: Author/s. Year of publication in parentheses. Article title. Journal title in italics. Volume. Issue in parentheses. Page numbers. Retrieval information.

Webpage citations should have the following structure: Website author/s. Year of publication in parentheses. Page name. Retrieval information.

Brainstorming keywords

Once you have identified the key concepts of your topic it is often useful to find alternative keywords.

This is a useful exercise because the words used in the different material might vary and you don't want to miss out on a good source because it uses a different term.

Keyword Synonyms/Similar Terms
Socio-economic status Social status, demographic
Education Literacy, schooling, teaching, training
Profession Occupation, vocation

Online dictionaries and thesauri can help you identify synonyms. You can find them on the Online Reference Page


Not all information sources are suitable for use in your assessment tasks. Watch the short video below to help you to distinguish between popular and scholarly information.

Charles Sturt University acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which its campuses are located, paying respect to Elders, both past and present, and extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.Acknowledgement of Country

Charles Sturt University is an Australian University, TEQSA Provider Identification: PRV12018. CRICOS Provider: 00005F.