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University of Newcastle Library Guides

Enabling Pathways Library Guide: Defining your topic

Guide to assist Open Foundation, Newstep and Yapug students find information for assignments

Defining your topic

Before you start looking for information for your assignment, it is important to analyse your question.

Think about what the question means and how you should go about answering it. 

Identifying key concepts or keywords in your assignment will help you to locate relevant information more effectively.  These key concepts will form the basis of your search strategy.

Here is an example essay topic:


'Geek culture' has been embraced by the mainstream more than ever with a deluge of genre TV and superhero movies and an increased awareness of conventions, cosplay and more.

Examine whether this 'mainstreaming' of fandom broadens or marginalises these subculture identities.

Let's 'unpack' the question.

1. Do you know what the question means?  Do you need to find definitions of words you aren't familiar with?

The question, in simple English, is asking "what effect does the popularity of geek culture have on the identity of fans?".

2. Can you identify the key concepts?

The key concepts here are geek culture, mainstream and identity.

Now that we have some keywords, next let's look at our search strategy.