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MID441 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. Charles Sturt's Academic Skills team has a 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 your assessment task is as follows:

Discuss one challenge for a midwife in providing care using a person-centred approach in a rural hospital.

Instruction word(s) Discuss
Qualifying words & phrases Rural hospital
Key concept Challenges for midwives using person-centred care


Let's take this further. Before start searching for journal articles, books or other evidence to support your answer, jot down some key words and phrases to use as search terms. In this example, they might be:

  • midwives
  • person-centred care
  • rural

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

midwives nurses / health professionals [broader terms]
person-centred care client-centred care / patient-centred care [synonyms]
rural country / regional / remote [synonyms]


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

Topic analysis

Finding additional keywords

Dictionaries and encyclopaedias can help you to find additional keywords and get an overview of the concept. At this stage of your studies, head for subject-specific dictionaries in Primo search. Here are some examples:

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.