Finding Resources: First steps

Planning your search

Download this Search Planner and use it to develop a search as you look for assessment resources.

Before you start your search view the videos on this page. They will assist you to think about your search strategy.

Keywords - What are they?

Steps to a successful assignment

  1. Collect all your information about the assignment.
  • the instructions for the assignment
  • the type of resources required for your Reference List e.g. books, journal articles
  • notes from classes on how to do the assignment
  1. Analyse and prepare
  • identify the Required Reading 
  • identify keywords & search the Library for additional resources e.g. books, journal articles 
  1. Read for Information
  • read Required Reading and make notes
  • read the additional articles etc for information not in the Required Reading
  • prepare each Reference as you read it. See the Referencing and Plagiarism guide for information.
  1. Start writing
  • collect notes from your reading and start to build your assignment
  • write the correct References for each of your readings for your Reference List

What are keywords?

Key words are words in a question that tell you the approach you should take when answering an assignment question. 

Keywords can include content (topic), limiting (restricting), and task (instruction) words.

Assignment example:

"Determine and describe the basic components of an electric power system for a small business centre with five 20 storey high rise buildings."

    Content Words      

  • Tell you what the topic area is.
  • Help you to focus your research and reading on the correct area.
  • Think about synonyms or similar words.    
  • e.g. in this example: electric power system.

Source: University of New South Wales

    Limiting Words 

  • Tell you what area(s) to focus on, e.g. basic components
  • Define the topic area further, e.g. for a small business centre
  • Indicate aspects of the topic area on which you should narrowly concentrate.


    Task Words

  • Tell you what to do; the action(s) you need to perform, e.g. compare, contrast, describe, summarise, i.e. determine and discuss as in this example.

When you are searching for information for an essay question, assignment or project, use the identified content and limiting keywords to search for information sources in our Find Library Resources box and online.

Keeping notes

Good note keeping is one of the best strategies you can use to maintain academic integrity. Make a habit of recording the resource's reference details (author, date, title, publisher, place of publication, page numbers) for any notes you take during your research. If you copy a quote directly make sure you also note the exact page number. You might like to create a template like the one below to record your notes:

Keeping detailed notes of your readings will help you develop a more sophisticated response to your assignment questions, as well as save you a lot of time hunting for references and page numbers when your assignments are due. Thinking about how you might use the information as you read will help you stay focused and reduce your reading time.

(This resource was created by Juanita Custance. © VU 2015. Contact for more advice on note-taking)