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GPM417 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 your 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. Charles Sturt has a list of explanations for common instruction words.


Assignment question: Prepare a Case Investigation on your chosen organisation which critically assesses the emergence, evolution, and end of the terrorist organisation, with reference to theory and evidence. 

This assessment is designed to develop your insight into how and why terrorist organisations rise, evolve, diminish – or alternatively, persevere. Consider the effectiveness of counterterrorism approaches against the organisations. 

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 case investigation, prepare, critically assesses, reference
Qualifying words & phrases theory and evidence
Key concepts terrorist organisation, emergence, evolution, counterterrorism


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.

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.