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ITC331 Research Skills Guide: Identify & 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 evidence to support your argument

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

The assessment task will generally give you three key pieces of information:

1. The key topic or concept words that direct your research.
2. ‚ÄčThe 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. Charles Sturt University has a list of explanations for common instruction words.

Your ITC331 assessment item 3 is an Ethical Analysis Report. You are provided with a case study/media item and the following instructions:

Discuss in depth the ethical issue(s) associated with the involvement of ICT in this case. Show why or how the technology creates or contributes to the problem. Produce a report, discussing both sides of the issue (pros and cons) drawing on both technical and philosophical literature. In addition, argue for your own view of the matter, giving your reasons for your point of view and showing why you believe that they are better than opposing views.

Note: See your subject outline for the full details of your assessment, including the marking rubric.

You have a better chance of finding information and answering your assignment question if you have a clear idea of the concept of your assignment.  Here is an example of a Topic analysis:

Key Concepts:

Ethical issues, ICT, Artificial intelligence

Qualifying Terms:

Pros and cons, critical analysis

Instruction Words:


Brainstorming keywords

Now that we have analysed the task and read through the provided article, we can start to look at the topic in more detail by identifying keywords that will help you to form a search strategy.

For demonstration purposes, an example of an ethical issue you might discuss could be around: 

The decline in human autonomy as a result of the rise in AI.

To get started, you need to think about what terms you will use when searching for information. To do this:

  • Identify the key concepts of your topic; and then
  • Brainstorm as many synonyms and similar terms/phrases as you can.
Keyword Synonym / Similar term or phrase
Autonomy independence, choice, decision making
A.I. technology, robots, automation

ethical use, morals, principles

 If you're having trouble thinking of synonyms, try using a thesaurus.  Visuwords™ is a helpful tool for discovering synonyms, as well as providing the noun, verb, adjective and adverb of the chosen word or term.

Topic analysis

Find additional keywords

Dictionaries and encyclopedias 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 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.

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