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HCS531 Research Skills Guide: Topic Analysis

Topic Analysis

The goal of topic analysis is to identify the key constituents of your assignment question so that you can select and search for appropriate keywords.

To do this, try the following:

  • Identify the key concepts of your topic (watch the topic analysis video for assistance).
  • Brainstorm and search for currently used synonyms and similar terms or phrases.

This is a useful exercise because the language used to describe your topic may vary from source to source, and you don't want to miss out on a good source because it uses a different term to the one you are searching. You might also continue to identify keywords while you're searching; if you notice that researchers are using particular phrases, add them to your list of search terms.

Let's use this topic as an example:

Identify an issue or problem in a specific area of human service activity and associated social policy.

Keyword Synonym / Similar term or phrase
Social policy Social services, public welfare, government policy
Gender Sex, gender role, gender identity, gender differences, feminine, masculine, LGBTQIA
Ethnicity Race, group identity, ethnic groups, culture

Tip: Online dictionaries and thesauri can help you identify synonyms. 

Topic analysis


Write down the key concepts from your topic and have a go at brainstorming as many alternative keywords and phrases as possible.