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NUT201 Research Skills Guide: Keywords (Topic Analysis)

Library Information Literacy Task

What is 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. CSU has a list of explanations for common instruction words.

You have a better chance of finding information and answering your assessment question if you have a clear idea of the concept of your assessment. For example, let's rake a look at the following task:

The diet and nutrition of school-age children in Australia has changed. Discuss

Instruction words Discuss
Key concepts The diet and nutrition of children
Qualifying words and phrases Australia and "school-age children"

For more information about this process, watch the Topic Analysis video on the right.

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.

Topic Analysis

Let's start thinking about what terms you will use when searching for information. To do this:

  • Identify the key concepts of your topic (watch the topic analysis video for assistance); and then
  • Brainstorm as many synonyms and similar terms/phrases as you can.

This is a useful exercise because the language used to describe your topic may vary from source to source, and you don't want to miss out on a good source because it uses a different term to the one you are searching on.

Here's another example - your 2nd assessment, in part 3, asks you to address this statement:

The causes of inequalities in being able to eat healthily extend far beyond a simple lack of knowledge on the part of individuals.

Your academic also asks you to:

Include a commentary on how the social, cultural and historical factors that impact on your own food choices and attitudes may be the same or different to the individuals in part 2 and a discussion of the importance of cultural (and social) awareness (specifically but not limited to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities) when working in the field of nutrition. You must also apply the insights you have gained on the topic in part 1 and your findings in part 2 to demonstrate your understanding of the topic. Lastly, you should also refer to evidence-based literature to support your reflection.


Keyword Synonym / Similar term or phrase
Inequality Divers*, Difference, "Social determinants of health"
Eat healthily "Healthy diet", "Food habits", "Health behavior", Nutrition
Knowledge Awareness, Familiarity, Education

You'll notice the use of the asterisk (*), and inverted commas (" ") in these terms - find out more information about using these search tools on our Search Strategies page.