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JST301 Research Skills Guide: Find keywords

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.

Assessment item 3 - Essay:

"Select a crime that is currently an issue in the area that you police. This MUST be a specific crime, not a crime category. Use Cohen & Felson's (1979) Routine Activity Theory (1938) to explain the occurrence of this crime in your area. Use Routine Activity Theory to provide crime prevention strategies for police to implement to prevent the chosen crime in your local area. You MUST provide discussion on how police will implement these strategies in your area for the crime you have chosen."

Detailed Instructions: 

  • The crime MUST be a specific crime with an offence code/Act and Section. eg Steal from Dwelling, Steal from Motor Vehicle in commuter car parks. You can NOT choose a crime category eg. volume crime, youth crime, traffic, alcohol related crime.
  • Use Routine Activity Theory components to explain the occurrence of YOUR CHOSEN CRIME IN YOUR AREA.
  • Discuss the benefits and shortfalls of Routine Activity Theory in relation to YOUR CHOSEN crime in YOUR LOCAL AREA.
  • The crime prevention strategies MUST specifically relate to your local policing area and the crime you have chosen, not general information. The strategies MUST also relate to police practice, not what other people/groups do. eg CCTV - police do not install CCTV - so if you are going to use this as a strategy, you MUST discuss what role the police have had in its implementation.
  • You can use strategies that are already in use in your area in your discussion, strategies that are used in other areas that may be beneficial or you can create your own strategy. All of these should be properly referenced and supported.
  • You MUST have at least 5 academic references in your assignment. You must also reference statistics, personal conversations, information about your area and any other information you obtain from another source.

Please note: this is a condensed version of your assessment topic, please refer to your subject outline for the full details of your assessment, including the marking rubric

Instruction words select, explain, discuss
Qualifying words & phrases local area, police practice
Key concepts crime, routine activity theory, crime prevention strategies


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.

Find additional keywords

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

Our Oxford Reference Online Database has hundreds of reference resources - try searching here with some of the keywords you've identified from your assessment question, and note down any alternate keywords that you find.

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