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MGT501 Research Skills Guide: Plan and prepare

Understanding the task

identify imageBefore you dive into searching for information it's important to spend some time working out what your assessment task is asking you to do, and planning your approach.

We recommend breaking this down by using a topic analysis and then brainstorming keywords. These are the first steps in creating your search strategy.


The best place to start your preparation is your Subject Outline. You should carefully read all elements of the assessment information available.

Reading through each element will highlight key terms or concepts you are expected to demonstrate your knowledge of, and will also identify the types of information, or information sources, you are expected to use.

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.

Your assessment tasks

Assessments 1 and 2 are linked by their shared focus on agile values and approaches to management practice.

In Assessment 1 you need to create a critical annotated bibliography and in Assessment 2 you will build on this work, using the references in your bibliography to support your business report.

In Assessment 3 you will work in groups to create a presentation on the role of managers in organisational change in VUCA environments.


In all three assessments you are expected to use academic resources, including peer reviewed journal articles, and professional sources. Each assessment has different minimum expectations for the number of resources you should be using, check your subject outline for details.

Across the three tasks you are being assessed on how you select, evaluate and use appropriate and credible resources. See the evaluate page for more information and guidance.

Topic analysis

A topic analysis will help you to clarify and understand what your assessment task 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.CSU has a list of explanations for common instruction words.

As Assessments 1 and 2 share the same topic, let’s do one topic analysis for the two of them.

A1: Prepare a critical annotated bibliography of 10 academic (minimum 4, peer-reviewed) and professional sources that you have located during your information searching into agile values and approaches to management practice, with particular reference to organisational planning

A2: The application of agile values and principles may be a useful approach to addressing some of the implications of VUCA environments for management practice…Prepare a business report to a senior executive of a public organisation, or a private or non-profit organisation in an industry of your choice. You will discuss the benefits of an agile approach to organisational planning, critically evaluate agile approaches to organisational planning, and draw out limitations to the application of this approach in organisational planning. Provide up to 3 recommendations regarding the application of an agile approach to organisational planning. 

Instruction words discuss, critically evaluate, draw out, recommend
limits organisational planning, VUCA environments
key concept words agile values and approaches

Find additional keywords

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

Oxford Reference Online is a huge repository of subject-specific dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and other reference-type material.

Topic analysis

Keyword brainstorming

Now that you’ve identified your key concept words it’s time to brainstorm and build a list of keywords, or the terms you’ll use when searching.

Start with what you have already identified then brainstorm synonyms, spelling variations and related terms or short phrases. Sometimes the identified limits can also work as keywords.

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.

agile values and approaches flexible, adaptable, learning, empathy, collaboration, innovation, responsive, methods
organisational planning strategy, goals, strategic planning
VUCA environments volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, disruption, technology, sustainability...