Skills Hub

Step 1: Analyse your topic

The first step in planning a search is to think about what information you need to answer your topic question. There are a couple of ways of approaching this.

Example 1

It’s often helpful to read your topic question, and consider how you would answer the following questions:

What is the focus of the question?
What is your understanding of this topic?

Putting this into practice

You have been given the following essay question to write about:

How has England's relationship with Australia changed since 1945?

What is the focus of the question?

We might say it is as simple as saying: England and Australia’s changed relationship, post 1945. But we need to be more specific. What element(s) of the relationship is the focus? For example, is it political, economical, anthropological, etc.

What is your understanding of this topic/focus?

You may need to consult some background material, such as encyclopaedias or general works to help you. Your answers may depend on the context in which the question is being asked. For example, you may be studying military history, or perhaps law. This will affect your perspective.

Example 2


"Many experts in the information technology field believe that it is impossible to try to develop effective protection against computer viruses because detection always lags behind the development of viruses. Discuss."

In this example we have been given a statement and asked to discuss. We still want to identify the focus of the topics and our understanding of them, but this is often harder to pick out of a statement. If your topic is hard to analyse, it can help to rephrase it as a question.

Putting this into practice
Phrased as a question, this could become:

"Can effective protection against computer viruses be developed?"

This makes it much easier to recognise the key concepts and focus of the discussion, e.g. developing effective protection against computer viruses.


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