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.

VCE Guide: Research Tips

Finding and evaluating Information

When looking for information for your studies or assessment tasks start by following these three steps:

  1. Understand your question
  2. Search for information
  3. Evaluate what you found

The information below will help you work through each of these steps and lead you to relevant and higher quality information sources.

Understanding your question

Before starting to search for information sources it is helpful to do a topic analysis to clarify and understand what you are being asked to do.

You will generally be given three key pieces of information in your assignment question:

  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 University has a list of explanations for common instruction words.

To demonstrate let's look at an example question:

"Modern managers should ensure their organisation operates ethically'. Discuss this statement.

Instruction words Discuss
Qualifying words & phrases modern managers
Key concepts managers, organisational ethics

After you have identified the key concepts 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 to use when searching for information as well as help you to cement your understanding of the question.

Key concept Alternative keywords or synonyms
managers leader, boss, supervisor, director
organisational ethics professional ethics, standards, values, social responsibility

Effective internet searching

There is nothing wrong with using the internet for your research. The video above and the table below offer some tips on improving your searches to increase the relevance of the results.

Just make sure you evaluate your sources before you use them.

Search for an exact phrase, or match

Put your search terms in quotation marks

"social responsibility"

Exclude a word from your search

Put a dash - before any word you want to exclude

"social responsibility" -environment

Combine searches

Use OR between your search terms to expand the results to more topics

management OR leadership

Search within a range of numbers

Use two periods .. between the numbers to return results within that range

"social responsibility" 2012..2017

Search within a website

Use site: to search within a particular web address or to limit your results to a domain type


Evaluate information with the CRAP test

Now that you have found some resources, how can you tell if they are suitable for your use?

You can use the CRAP test to evaluate a range of resource types - websites, books, journals, newspapers, magazines etc. Ask yourself the following questions to evaluate the resource against the criteria of Currency, Reliability, Authority and Purpose.


Is it current enough for your topic?

A general rule is to use resources published in the last 5 years.


Is the source reputable?

Does the creator provide references?

Do those references pass the CRAP test?


Who is the creator or author?

What are their qualifications?

Are they an expert in the field?


Is it fact or opinion?

Is it biased or balanced?

Is the creator trying to sell you something?

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.