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HIP100 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 words tell you what you need to do. Charles Sturt's Academic Skills Team has a study guide on Common Instruction Words.
  2. The key topic or key concept tells you what you need to research.
  3. The limits or qualifiers tell you the focus or restrictions of the topic/concept.


Imagine you are writing a 500 word essay with instructions as follows:

Discuss the challenges faced by Australian health workers in providing person-centred care in a rural environment.

Instruction word(s) Discuss
Key concept/topic  Person-centred care in health
Qualifiers/Limiters Australia; rural


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:

  • health 
  • person-centred care
  • rural
  • Australia

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

health  health care / health care workers / health professionals
person-centred care client-centred care / patient-centred care
rural regional / remote


A possible search strategy might then be:

AND "person-centred care" OR "client-centred care" OR "patient-centred care"
AND rural OR region* OR remote
AND australia*


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

Topic Analysis