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Help yourself - How to research your assignment

Effective research is a step by step process

Follow these steps when researching a topic:

1. Analyse your topic
2. Do background reading
3. Plan your search
4. Find relevant information
5. Evaluate the information you find
6. Cite correctly

Background reading

Background reading will help you:

  • get an initial understanding of your topic
  • identify keywords for your search
  • better understand and evaluate the information you find.

Good sources for background reading include:

  • lecture slides and recordings
  • your textbook
  • course readings
  • reference sources such as encyclopaedias and dictionaries

Task analysis

Look in detail at the assignment task & the marking criteria.

Asking questions

Ask yourself ...

  • Who is the audience?
  • What do I need to cover?
  • When is it due?
  • Why has this assessment been set?
  • What learning outcomes does it cover?
  • How are marks allocated?
  • Where do I find relevant information?

Note down what you already know about the topic and identify any gaps in your knowledge.

It is important to brainstorm, identifying issues and topics to focus on in your report. Credo Reference has a Mind Map feature that can help you identify related terms to expand your search.

Topic analysis

When analysing your topic:

  • Circle the direction or task words (what you are being asked to do)
  • Underline the topic words (the main concepts / issues you need to discuss)
  • Put brackets around the limiting words which you will use to narrow your results (eg. date or type of resource)


Discuss whether the social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits. Use scholarly journal articles from the last 10 years.

For more help on analysing a question see the ACU Study Guide and the Academic Skills module on LEO.