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Search for your assignment

STEP 1: Understand your topic

Before you start it is important to understand your topic:

  • What is it you need to do?
  • Do you need to define any terms?
  • What types of information do you need?

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STEP 2: Study help: Plan your search video

Watch the following video (2:26) to get you started:

  • Searching for your whole assignment is not very effective
  • Mapping out your search is a good place to start
  • Identify the key concepts in your question or topic
  • You don't need to search for task words
  • Use double quotation marks (" ") to search for two or more words together as a phrase
  • Think about what other words (synonyms and alternative terms) might be used to describe the key concepts
  • You can use acronyms, but you should search for the full terms as well
  • To find fewer results, add different concepts using AND (e.g. rural AND Australia)
  • To find more results, add synonyms or alternative terms, to your search using OR (e.g. "renewable energy" OR solar OR wind)
  • You can change your search as you find more information
  • For more information, read the How to plan your search document
Learn more:

STEP 3: Identify key concepts

First you begin by identifying the key concepts of your question or topic.Step 2: identify your key concepts

Mapping out your search can be a good place to start:

  • Identify the keywords (also known as key concepts) in the assignment question - these form the foundation of your search
  • Remove task words (also known as instruction words) from your assignment question - these are the words telling you what to do with the key concepts (e.g. compare, discuss, analyse)
Note: you will need to have a topic or research question to continue on this page!

STEP 4: Identify alternative keywords

Step 3: Identify alternative keywords

Once you've identified the key concepts in your assignment topic, you will need to find similar or alternative keywords. You may want to consider:

  • Pluralsdifferent word forms (stutter, stuttering)
  • Different spellings (behavior, behaviour)
  • Hyphenated words (self-esteem, self esteem)
  • Acronyms or abbreviations (cognitive behavioural therapy, CBT)


  • Consider using a mindmap or table to help you brainstorm alternative keywords
  • Use a thesaurus to help you find similar or alternative keywords
  • Do some basic initial searching using the keywords you have already identified to see what other words are used in the papers you find

STEP 5: Connect concepts & keywords

Use the following operator words (ORs / ANDs) to indicate how you want your keywords to be searched:

  • OR to connect different terms within the same concept
  • AND to connect different concepts

Step 4: connect your key concepts and alternative keywords

STEP 6: Modify your search

The following special symbols may further improve your search:

An asterisk * finds a word with alternative endings. E.g. adolescen*adolescent, adolescents, adolescence

"double quotation marks" keep two or more words together in the exact order. E.g. "speech therapy"

Search all the variations of a word separately. E.g. well-being/wellbeing or healthcare/health care

Step 5: modify your search with symbols

Interactive worksheet

Use the interactive worksheet below to help you identify your key concepts and alternative keywords.