Sports Science and Exercise Physiology: 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?
Learn more:

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 to help you identify your key concepts and alternative keywords, or you can download the worksheet document.

Word doc. worksheet