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Your Assignment

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.

Assignment question example: 

Discuss factors that influence the relationship between food intake and children's behaviour?


Concept 1

Concept 2

Concept 3






Behavior (note US spelling)











Why are you being asked to write an assignment on this topic?

  • Is the assignment topic controversial?
  • Is the assignment topic complicated? What makes it complicated?
  • Are there opposing points of view about the topic?

Once you have a good understanding of what the assignment question is about, ask yourself:

  • What do you already know about the topic? 
  • Are there parts of the topic that you need to learn about? 
  • Do you need to understand the topic better before you can determine your own viewpoint?


You might think differently about your topic once you have started researching it – this is normal! If necessary, you can redefine your topic as you go.

Dictionaries and Encyclopaedias are examples of reference sources.

You can use Dictionaries to find definitions.

You can use Encylopaedias to find background information. Articles from specialised subject encyclopaedias are authoritative and often substantial.

Some suggestions for online reference material can be found under Helpful Links in this guide.

You may wish to search these Reference Research Databases:

Use a search strategy to find information more effectively and efficiently by:

Combining keywords

AND, OR and NOT are known as Boolean operators.

AND (find all these words) - eg. physiotherapy AND "back pain"

OR (find any of these words) - eg. physiotherapy OR "physical therapy"

NOT (do not include results with this word)

Knowing when and how to use Boolean operators effectively can greatly improve search results.

View the movie from the University of Auckland on how to use boolean operators

Modifying keywords

When modifying keywords, consider using:

  • Phrase searching

Phrase searching involves placing double quotation marks ("__") around two or more words to create a search term.

This technique narrows the search to retrieve only those results in which the exact phrase appears eg. "physical therapy"

  • Proximity operators

Proximity operators enable you to define how closely you want your search terms to be found in relation to one another using a number or symbol eg.

circumstances /s mitigating will find the terms circumstances and mitigating within the same sentence

market /5 share will find market within 5 words of share

filing pre/5 bankrupt! the word filing must precede bankrupt by no more than 5 words

Note: the number 5 can be replaced with any number

The type of proximity operators vary from database to database. Check the database help if you are unsure.

  • Truncation

Truncation is a searching technique used in databases in which a word ending is replaced by a symbol.

The most commonly used truncation symbol is the asterisk (*). Check the database help page if you have problems

eg. the truncated word, child*, will search for results containing child, children, children's etc.

  • Wildcards

Wildcards are symbols used in database searches to represent a letter or letters within a word to be able to search different forms or spelling simultaneously. The types of wildcards can differ from database to database. Check the database help page for more details.

Note: Multisearch supports the use of ? to find one character only example: w?man to find woman or women


Use Research Databases to search for journal articles on your topic. Research Databases provide you with electronic access to journal articles, newspaper articles, statistical publications, encyclopaedias, legal material and reports.

Research Databases may be subject specific or cover many different topic areas. For more information see how to search a database.

Need help finding the right resources? Contact us using Ask@MQ.


Use Multisearch to search the majority of Library holdings to find print and electronic resources, including books, journal articles, conference papers, statistics and more.


Help with writing your assignment