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PSY564 Research Skills guide: Plan

Identifying what you need

Planning an effective search strategy can save you time and retrieve more relevant results

At this first stage, you need 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. CSU has a list of explanations for common instruction words.

Let's look at Assessment 1:

"...The task will require the student to work through the issues in each scenario using an ethical decision-making process. While there are a number of ethical decision-making models in the literature, the task will require the student to work through the five steps recommended by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) Ethics Committee’s Ethical Decision Making Project Team, which was published in InPsych in December 2013..."

"...task requires:
• Evidence of extended reading and understanding of the topic(s).
• More critical and analytical engagement with the subject matter.
• Arguments that are supported by appropriate (scholarly, professional,
and credible) sources.
• Accurate attribution of ideas (cited and referenced appropriately)..."

Identifying the Key Concepts as shown below, can also help you to decide which keywords would be useful to use when searching for appropriate sources to support your analysis.

Instruction words (from Marking Rubric) Analyse critically
Key concepts + those identified in your chosen scenario. Ethics, ethical theory, professional guidelines, ethical decision making + concepts identified in scenarios
Qualifying words & phrases ethical dilemma, codes and guidelines


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.

Note: You may also need to include keywords relevant to the specific vignette in your subject outline.

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

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.

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