NEF1104 Problem Solving for Engineers: Overview

A guide for research and inquiry in the unit NEF1104

About this guide

This guide provides a starting point for finding and using resources in the VU Library that will support the unit NEF1104 Problem Solving for Engineers.

Use the tabs above to find out more about each topic.


On this page

This page provides information on getting started on your assignment and keyword searching strategies.

What are keywords?

Keywords are words in an assignment question that tell you what approach you should take when answering an assignment question. 

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

Assignment example:

"Managing urban traffic congestion can be costly both financially and socially. Discuss and suggest solutions for sustainable transport in Australian cities."

    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: managing urban traffic congestion, and sustainable transport in cities.

Source: University of New South Wales

    Limiting Words 

  • Tell you what area(s) to focus on, e.g. Australian cities
  • Define the topic area further.
  • Indicate aspects of the topic area you should narrowly concentrate on.




    Task Words

  • Tell you what to do; the action(s) you need to perform, e.g. compare, contrast, describe, summarise, i.e. discuss and suggest 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 Library Search and online.

Keyword search strategies

Once you have analysed your topic and done some preliminary reading, you are ready to break down the chosen research topic into key concepts selected from both the topic and your readings. It is best to identify 2 to 4 key concepts, with each concept containing up to 2 words, which will serve as keywords or search terms you'll type in Library Search to find relevant resources.  You might need to build separate search strategies for different aspects of your research as well as use a variety of keywords to ensure you cover all aspects of the topic.

Source: University of Texas Libraries

If, for example, you want to focus on battery energy storage, list your main concepts or keywords, and apply the following strategies to combine them:

  • for a basic search, enter the identified keywords in the search field, for example, battery energy storage.
  • if you want to combine 'battery energy storage' and some others aspects of your research such as homes and housing in your searches, you can also use the Boolean operators (AND, OR & NOT) to narrow or broaden your searches, and construct more complex search statements, for example, battery energy storage AND (homes OR housing) 
  • think of possible synonyms and related words or phrases, for example, battery energy storage OR home batteries OR home battery storage
  • search exact phrases by enclosing the phrase in quotes, for example, "home batteries"
  • find a term with various endings by using as a truncation symbol represented by an asterisk (*), for example, batter* will retrieve battery and batteries among other terms
  • group related or synonymous terms together by placing them in parentheses, for example, (home* OR housing OR residential)

View the videos in this guide to learn how to search for books, e-books and journal articles available at Victoria University Library.

In-class learning activities

Activity 1: Discuss a ‘real-world’ problem

Reflect on Activity 1: What are, according to you, the three most important steps in the inquiry process?

Responses go on Padlet (online bulletin board). Click on your tutorial group to link to it:

Block 3: 

Group A

Group B and C

Block 4:

Group A, B & C

Reflect on Activity 3: After being introduced to the Guided Inquiry Design Process, what do you NOW think are the three most important steps in the inquiry process?

Responses go on same Padlet by clicking on your tutorial group. You could write down your response underneath the text of your previous answer on the Padlet (see the provided example).

Steps to a successful assignment

1. Read over your assignment

  • Understand the assignment's requirements
  • Collect all the information about the assignment
  • If unsure of anything, ask for clarifications

2. Understand your topic

  • Identify main concepts or keywords to help you develop your research strategy

3. Collect background information

  • Use dictionaries, handbooks and encyclopedias

4. Read for information

5. Evaluate your resources

  •  Check that the information you are using to complete assessment tasks is: authoritative, accurate, current, and relevant to your assessment requirements

6. Write your assignment

  • Collect notes from your reading and write your assignment
  • Reference all the sources of information you use

Refer to the Academic Writing Advice page for help with writing challenges.

Search the library

Search the library

Non-VU access

Acknowledgement of Country

Australian Aboriginal Flag

Acknowledgement of Country

Victoria University acknowledges, recognises and respects the Ancestors, Elders and families of the Bunurong/Boonwurrung, Wadawurrung and Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung
of the Kulin who are the traditional owners of University land in Victoria, and the Gadigal and Guring-gai of the Eora Nation who are the traditional owners of University land in Sydney.


 This content is licensed to Victoria University under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.