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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

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