How to research

How much and the type of research you need to do will vary with each assignment. There is no single way to do research, but the tips below will help make your research more effective.

Decide what you need to find out about

When you are researching it is good to have a question in mind to inform what you are looking for. Look at your assignment question and analyse it to ensure you know what it means and what is expected of you. Ask yourself:

  • What is the question about?
  • What does it mean?
  • What do I need to do?

When you look at the question, think about whether you need to find information that is fact, opinion, personal reflections, news or other reports, analyses, or something different. Also check how much information you need to find.

This may depend on:

  • What you have to do.
  • The lecturer/tutor’s expectations.
  • The length of the assignment, and how much the assignment is worth or percentage of the trimester mark.

Think about what you know already

When you start searching for information, brainstorm what you already know:

  • What exactly is this about?
  • What do I already know?
  • What do I need to find out?
  • What do I think/feel about the topic?
  • What approach am I going to take?

Tip: Try using a mind map to brainstorm the topic and to identify what you know and what you need to know.

Find and evaluate information

As well as looking in your learning materials for information, you could also try:

Tip: Wikipedia can be a helpful starting place for your research. While it is not always considered the best source of information, good pages have references that can lead you to more information.

What to do with the information you find

Start by skim reading what you've found to evaluate it and make sure it really is what you need. Once you sure it's relevant, then it's time for more in depth reading.

Keep a list of everything you read, including information on what you decide not to use. Note down:

  • The title, author, date and source.
  • Where you found a source so that you can find the information again if you need to.
  • Your opinion and whether or not you found the information useful.

This way you’ll remember what you’ve tried, and won’t waste time going back to resources that weren't useful.

Tip: Make sure you include sufficient information to compile a bibliography or reference list, including the author, title, edition, publisher, date, ISBN, website.

Thinking critically and evaluating information

Get the most out of your reading

More about research

Introduction to research – Cornell University Library website (opens in new window)

What is primary research and how do I get started? - Purdue Online Writing Lab website (opens in new window)

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