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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

In Assessment 2 you need to create a critical annotated bibliography, while Assessment 3 is a business report on Responsive Management Practices.

In Assessment 4 you will create a presentation on managers engaging people in organisational change within VUCA business 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.

Assessment 2: Locate 6 recent sources (within the last 7 years) on agile mindset (aka agile philosophy) as applied to management and prepare:

  1. A critical annotated bibliography, and
  2. A synthesis of these sources.


Assessment 3: The application of agile philosophy (or agile mindset) may be useful to address the implications of VUCA environments for management practice… Prepare a business report on the impact/s of VUCA business environments on management practice. Address the following questions/issues:

  • Organisational planning – What is the current approach to organisational planning? What adjustments are needed in VUCA business environments?
  • Managing strategy – What impacts does social media have on the formulation and execution of strategy? How should managers adapt the way they manage strategy in response?
  • Shaping organisational culture – How does a VUCA business environment shape the way managers go about shaping culture?
  • Managing people – What challenges does a VUCA business environment pose for managers in the way that they practice human resource management?

You must introduce your chosen organisation, justify your arguments using evidence and provide two recommendations for each question/issue.

Instruction words locate, critically evaluate, synthesise, justify, recommend
limits last 7 years,  VUCA business environments,
key concept words agile mindset, agile philosophy, organisational planning, strategy, organisational culture, human resource management

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 mindset/philosophy flexible, adaptable, learning, empathy, collaboration, innovation, responsive, methods
organisational planning strategy, goals, strategic planning
VUCA environments volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, disruption, technology, sustainability...

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