Skip to Main Content

Research Fundamentals: Step 1: Know your topic

Beginning that assignment...

Getting started

This guide offers tips to help you get started on your assignments.


Photo courtesy of Flickr: Ron Wiecki

Understanding keywords

Make sure you understand all the words/phrases you have identified:

  • Use a dictionary
  • Textbooks can provide a good overview of a topic
  • Wikipedia can also help define a topic but do not use it as a reference source.

Know your topic

  • Read through your question or task to ensure you understand it
  • Consider the objectives or purpose of the subject
  • Read the marking criteria carefully
  • Identify the type of assignment e.g. essay, report, review etc. 


  • Highlight any keywords/topic words
  • Underline any task words (directive words)
  • Identify the scope or focus of the topic e.g. limiting to Australian information only, particular date range or population group
  • Take note of word limit.

Task words

Task words provide you with direction on how to answer your assignment questions.  

Glossary of task words


Find books, articles and more from a single search box:


New Digital Resources

New digital resources

You requested more online content and we heard you!

Check out these new resources below:

Flipster provides access to full text digital magazines on many subjects including gardening, art, music, photography and more.

Kanopy provides access to streaming videos on subjects relevant to Melbourne Polytechnic courses including education, art, health, humanities and science.

For more information about Flipster or Kanopy click on the links above or ask Library staff for help to access these new online products.