Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

DOH115 Research Skills Guide: Topic Analysis & Keywords

Topic Analysis OR Understanding Your Question

A topic analysis will help you to clarify and understand what your assessment question is asking you to do. Note that if your question has an evidence based practice foundation you may like to consider a PICO analysis before undertaking the more general topic analysis.

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.

Our DOH114 example assessment question is:

With reference to embryology, and affect on development, describe the functional, macroscopic and microscopic features of cleft lip.

Please Note: the above example assessment question will be used throughout this online tutorial to demonstrate how to search for relevant information resources. You can instead use your own assessment question when trying out the activities that appear throughout this tutorial.

Instruction words reference; describe
Qualifying words & phrases embryology; affect on development
Key concepts cleft lip; functional, macroscopic and microscopic features

Keyword Activity

""Using synonyms can assist by broadening your search, thereby helping you locate appropriate and relevant information resources. You can identify alternate keywords or synonyms, like those listed below, that may be useful during your information searching process by looking in general or subject specific dictionaries.

For example, some alternate keywords for the concepts we identified above might include:

  • cleft lip = orofacial cleft
  • functional, macroscopic and microscopic features = clinical features, features
  • embryology = prenatal development, congenital
  • affect on development = effect, impact

Keyword Activity

Write down the key concepts from your chosen assignment 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.

Oxford Reference Online is a huge repository of subject-specific dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and other reference-type material.