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WEL427 Research Skills Guide: Planning

Understanding the task

identify imageIt is important to break down the requirements of your assessment task before you start searching for information so that you can plan your approach.

At this first stage, you need to work out:

  • what the assessment is asking you to do
  • how you are going to search for answers to the question

The best place to find this information is your Subject Outline. You should carefully read all elements of the assessment information available including:

  1. the task description,
  2. the rationale, and
  3. the marking rubric.

Reading through each element will highlight key terms and concepts. Also, you can identify the types of information, or information sources, you are expected to use. It's normal to feel overwhelmed by the different requirements. With some time, thought and planning, you can come up with a research plan that will help you get things done. If you have questions about the assessments, ask your Lecturer.

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 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.

Take Assessment 2 as an example:

Key concepts Possible keywords
Murray Darling Basin crisis Murray Darling, Murray-Darling, MDB, salinity, erosion, blue-green algal blooms, water quality, fish deaths, land management, sustainability...
eco-social practice green social work, environmental social work...

Remember you will also need to include keywords relevant to your chosen community group for example:

Community group Possible keywords
Indigenous people Aboriginal, Indigenous, First Nations people, Land rights, Native title, culture, livelihood, empowerment, cultural water rights...


As you start working on each of your Assessment Tasks:

Write down the key concepts from your topic and have a go at brainstorming as many alternative keywords and phrases as possible.

Find additional keywords

Tip: Online dictionaries and thesauri can help you identify synonyms.

Find your definitions by searching Oxford Reference Online

Topic analysis

What information do you need?

In Assessment 2 you have been asked to "make reference to credible resources throughout your report that provide a range of diverse perspectives."

At this stage of your studies you are most likely familiar with using Primo Search and journal databases to locate quality academic materials. To help hone your skills check the Searching Databases page for some advanced search tips.

To make sure you are capturing "diverse perspectives," broaden your search beyond journal articles and eBooks. Searching for government or business reports, media articles or even less formal online communications such as blogs will give you a range of perspectives and public opinion.

Find tips and suggestion for locating these sources on the Searching Other Sources page.

Remember, no matter where you find your resources you still need to evaluate them to ensure they are credible. Check the Evaluating Information page for tips.

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.