Before you start searching for information, it's important to make sure you understand your assignment question, and to develop a search strategy. Spending some time planning your search will help you to find relevant results.

Understanding the question

Read your assignment topic carefully and write down what it is you think the assignment requires. Summarise the topic in your own words, focussing on the main concepts.

If you're not sure about what's required, discuss the assignment with your tutor or other students in your class.

Develop a list of Keywords

Once you've summarised your topic, identify the keywords and phrases that are most important. Your keywords should capture the main concepts of the topic.

For example, in this topic: "Does advertising encourage teenagers to take up smoking?", we'll start by identifying the main concepts.

Concept 1Concept 2Concept 3

alternative keywords


alternative keywords


alternative keywords


There may be alternative keywords used for the same concepts, so think about synonyms and variations to spelling.

You'll use these keywords when you search for information using Library Search or databases.

Use your recommended readings (My Unit Readings), dictionaries, encyclopaedias or textbooks to more clearly understand each concept and to find additional keywords.

Wikipedia can help with providing basic information and concepts as well as keywords for searching, but remember that it shouldn’t be used as a reference.

Need help?

Librarians can help you with identifying keywords and structuring your search: Ask our Librarians.

You can also chat online or drop in to see the Peer Academic Coaches at the Geoffrey Bolton Library.