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University of Newcastle Library guides

Research Help for International Students: Choose your keywords

Guide to assist international students find information for assignments.

Choose your keywords

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

What does the question mean? What are you being asked to do?

Look for instructional words such as analysediscuss or argue. These words help you understand how to answer the question. A list of common instructional words with definitions can be found here.

Identify keywords (i.e. key concepts, topic words) in your assignment. Keywords help you to locate relevant information more effectively and will form the basis of your search strategy.

For more help on analysing your question, have a look at this video produced by UTS LibraryStarting your assignment

Let's work through this 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.

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

The question is asking "what effect does the popularity of geek culture have on the identity of fans?”

2. What are the instructional words? What are you being asked to do?

The question is asking you to “examine”. This means you will need to break down the main points in more detail and then describe each point carefully.

3. What are the keywords?

The keywords in this example are geek culturemainstream and identity.

Now that we have some keywords, let's look at developing a search strategy.