Skip to Main Content


Thinking about your assignment question

Take some time to make sure that you understand your assignment question.

It can be helpful to highlight the keywords in the question and to think about the wider concepts that are relevant to the topic. These keywords and concepts will help you search for information.

For example, your essay question may be:

Provide a brief description of Haiti (ie you may want to include information on topics such as population, politics, human development indices, social conditions, economy, and international relations), then examine how local and global forces may have influenced the overall impact of the earthquake.

Some possible alternative keywords for some of the concepts in this topic are shown in the table below.


Original keyword

Alternative keyword 1

Alternative keyword 2

Concept 1




Concept 2

Social conditions


Socioeconomic factors

Concept 3   International relations   Foreign relations   Intergovernmental relations 

Think about the research you will do

Ask Yourself:

  • What do you already know about the topic?
  • Are there parts of the topic that you need to learn about?
  • How much information do you need?
  • What information has already been provided? e.g. in lectures and course readings
  • Has your lecturer provided you with any guidelines? e.g. word length, referencing style, types of sources you need to use

How recent?

Do you need current information, a historical overview or a combination of both?

What type of sources?

  • Australian or international sources or both?
  • Newspaper articles or websites?
  • Data or statistics?
  • Books or journal articles or both?
  • Peer-reviewed articles? Peer-reviewed articles are known as scholarly or refereed articles. They have been reviewed by subject specialist researchers working in the academic community.

You might think differently about your topic once you start researching it. This is normal. Just redefine your topic as you go and adjust your search strategies.

Generating Ideas

Sometimes you may be asked to come up with your own research question to write about. It can be daunting to try and think of a topic that is original and interesting. Generating Ideas is a short module which will give you some good pointers to get you started with thinking creatively around a topic. Just log in to iLearn to get started.