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HLT330 Research Skills Guide: Topic Analysis

Topic Analysis

A topic analysis will help you to clarify and understand what your assessment question is asking you to do.

You should be able to break down the assessment task into three components:

  1. The task or instruction terms tell how you are to deal with the content. CSU's ALLaN team has a study guide on Common Instruction Words.
  2. The limits or qualifiers tell you the specific focus of the topic or concept.
  3. The key topic or concept words direct you in what to research.


Imagine you are writing an essay with instructions as follows:

Discuss the role of adrenaline in the pre-hospital care of a patient with anaphylaxis.

Instruction word(s) Discuss
Qualifying words & phrases Pre-hospital care
Key concept Role of adrenaline in anaphylaxis


Let's take this further. Before carrying out any searching you should try to identify actual words and phrases to use as search terms. In this example, they might be:

  • adrenaline
  • anaphylaxis
  • pre-hospital care.

You should also try to identify synonyms (alternative terms) to use in your search:

adrenaline epinephrine
anaphylaxis anaphylactic shock
pre-hospital care emergency care / paramedicine


And, if you apply truncation and phrase-searching, your search string might be:
(adrenaline OR epinephrine) AND anaphylacti* AND ("pre-hospital care" OR "emergency care" OR paramedic*)  [See also the page in this guide on General Search Techniques].

If you are confused or unsure about the assessment topic, check with your lecturer or tutor. 

Topic analysis

Assessment 2 - Critical review of research article

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.

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