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Assignment Help: Research Skills

Research Skills


Step 1 - Analyse

When you are given a written assessment, read through it carefully.

Are you being asked to:

  • Compare? Review? Discuss? 
  • Contrast? Summarise? Explain?

Circle the 'action' words so that they stand out. Note the number of words required, whether a certain number of references are expected, the format in which to submit it (emailed? handed in? upload to Blackboard?) and the date due.

Step 2 - Translate

What are the keywords or concepts in this assessment? 

What is the impact of fast food advertising on childhood obesity?

Write a 500 word essay on the topic:

Think of synonyms for the main concepts: 

impact > consequences, outcomes

fast food > junk food, snack food, convenience food

advertising > marketing, selling, sales pitch

childhood > kids, young children

obesity > overweight, weight gain

Step 3 - 'Pre-search'

Use online tools like and to confirm the meanings of any keywords.

You can also use Wikipedia to get background information, however only use this to get you started with your research. It is not appropriate to reference Wikipedia in your assignments.

Research strategy

Step 4 - Search the library catalogue


Searching the catalogue is easy!

SuperSearch lets you discover the majority of our books, journals, videos and electronic resources from a single search box!

You can even find articles within journals by using your search terms.

You can also refine the information you find to a specific date range.

Step 5 - Search databases

Tips for searching databases:

 Use very specific keywords when searching for information
 Select full-text when conducting your search
 Include a date range to ensure up to date information, eg. 2014-2018
 Read the abstract to see if the article is relevant
 Take the time to watch the online tutorial for the database of your choice

If you find a good, representative article, note the subject headings for that article. Use those headings when you search again.

Step 6 - Search the Web

No search engine covers the entire Web. They all have different ways of searching so use more than one search engine to ensure a thorough search.

Step 7 - Evaluate your information

There are many excellent websites that teach how to evaluate information.

One of the oldest, and one of the best, is Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to apply & questions to ask from UC Berkeley.

Subject based tutorials may be found at the Virtual Training Suite. Just scroll down to your choice.

Try YouTube's list of tutorials here.

Step 8 - Collect and cite your references

Your work is not finished until you've correctly attributed (provided a reference for) every source you have used in your assignment. Remember that it's always better practice to keep a list of your references as you write the paper. For more information on referencing, see here for the APA Style.