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Catherine McAuley College: Defining

Welcome to your digital library


Defining: What do I really want to find out? Why do I need to find this out? What are the key words and ideas of my assignment? What do I need to do? Do I need to ask my teacher to explain this to me in a different way? Is there anything about the assignment that confuses me?

Do I understand?

Resources to help in the "defining" step

Understanding what I need to do!

  • Define your topic! What do I need to do? Write out what you need to do in a short simple sentence. What are the keywords of the task?
  • Keywords: These will help you understand what is required of you and help you with the next step of locating.
  • Do I know exactly what I need to do for this project? How long have I got to complete it? How much class time? How much time at home? What exactly is the format - essay, poster, powerpoint etc?
  • Brainstorm: What do you already know about the topic? Make a mind map.
  • Make a list of questions: I still need to finD out: Why, How, When, Who, Where, How, What
  • Make up a plan of attack - the stages I need to do to complete this project. (don't leave it till the night before)


Keywords! What are they?

A Keyword is a word that represents the main idea or feature of your topic question. There may be up to 5 keywords in your topic which you should highlight and then develop a list of similar words (synonyms) for each keyword.

Keywords are connected with synonyms. A synonym is a word that has the same meaning as another word. For example "College" and "school". You should create synonym lists for each keyword.

Keywords and synonyms are essential when searching for information.



"The driving age should be raised to 21 years of age" The words in yellow become your key words

Synonyms: Driving age = licence, driver's licence, car licence

                   Raised = elevated, extended, heightened, higher

                   21 years = adult

To select keywords to use for your research, start by writing out the question. Highlight the important words and then think of similar words or synonyms (these other words will help with searching the net and databases)


"The driving age should be raised to 21 years of age" The words in yellow become your key words

Synonyms: Driving age = licence, driver's licence, car licence

                   Raised = elevated, extended, heightened, higher

                   21 years = adult