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INF111 Research Skills Guide: Topic analysis

Use topic analysis

Before you start researching, you should carefully analyse your topic so you can plan an effective search strategy. This can save you time and help you to retrieve more relevant results. 

Topic analysis will help you to work out:

  • what the assessment is asking you to do
  • how you are going to search for answers to the question.

If you are confused or unsure about the assessment topic, ask your lecturer or tutor who will be happy to talk it through with you.

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:

  1. The key topic or concept words direct you in what to research.
  2. The limits or qualifiers tell you the specific focus of the topic or concept.
  3. The task or instruction terms tell how you are to deal with the content. There is a list of explanations for common instruction words.

Your Technology Trends Discussion paper asks you to:

Write a discussion paper in which you discuss the trends, opportunities and issues associated with incorporating a specific technology into a library, archive, museum, or gallery. Identify examples of how information organisations are currently using the technology you have chosen, and how they might use them in the future to assist them in the organisation and retrieval of information. You should also discuss what you see are the positive and negative aspects of using your technology in a library, archive, museum, or gallery.

Key concepts

Trends, opportunities, issues
[Your selected technology trend]
[Library, archive, gallery or museum]
Staff and users


Current use
Future use
Information organisation and retrieval

Instruction words

Identify, discuss

Keyword analysis

Before you start searching, you should analyse your topic a little further to identify search terms. 

It's important to brainstorm all possible aspects of the topic, to find key words and phrases to use in Primo or journal databases. You also need to think about synonyms and alternatives for words, as well, to broaden your search. You could try looking up your key concepts to find background information and context.

A few possible examples include:

Key concept Key search words and phrases


Or specify a type: Public library, public libraries, public librar*
State library, local library, city council library, regional library, [names of specific libraries e.g. Yarra Plenty Regional library]

Trend e.g. Augmented reality

augmented AND reality, "Augmented reality", AR

"AR technologies", immersive technology, interactive environments, mixed reality, computer-mediated reality

Users Users, user groups, patrons, customers, clients

You should try different combinations of these words and phrases with other limiters while searching, to find relevant books and articles. You need to experiment with which combinations produce the best results.

See the Search Strategies page for search tips and tools.

Topic analysis

Find additional keywords

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

In the Oxford Reference search box below, enter some of the keywords you've identified from your assessment question and note down any alternate keywords that you find.

Find your definitions by searching Oxford Reference Online


Write down the key concepts from your topic and have a go at brainstorming 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.

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