Top Tips for Research Skills

You’re going to need good research skills to deal with all sorts of questions and assignments. These tips are designed to help you develop the research skills you already have and to share some good ideas you might not yet have come across.

All observations have been collected from real people who have experience of research themselves and know the best ways of going about it. The tips come from the same people and should make your research easier and better. And who knows - before long, someone might be asking you for tips too!

There are three screens in this section:

* using books and journals
* using the Internet
* sorting your information

Librarians say that most students start their research by using the Internet.
This is understandable — it gives you the feeling that you’re in control, for a bit, anyway. The tip here is to realise that basic information can often be quicker and easier to find in a book and encyclopaedia.

Librarians say that students often ask for information, and then say they’re not sure what they want.
Be really sure that you understand the question you’re answering. If you find it difficult to explain it to someone else, then go back to your tutor and check your understanding. You have a better chance of good grades if you feel confident that you understand what’s expected of you.

Librarians say that if the title of the book doesn’t appear to relate exactly to a student’s research question, then the book isn’t thought relevant.
If you’re feeling stressed, this is understandable - you want good sources, quickly. The tip here is to look through the index — a small amount of information can be as useful as a large amount.

Librarians say that when tutors recommended a particular journal or other source, then students use it.
Check whether your tutor is able to recommend particular journals. Check whether there is a reading list for the subject you’re dealing with.

Librarians say that when students are unsure how the library cataloguing system works, they are less likely to use books as a source.
Even if you’ve been shown how to use the catalogue, it’s easy to forget. Do ask for advice and help — it feels good when you know how.

Librarians say that students don’t always note down the details of the books or journals that they’ve used. They also report that many students don’t know why they need a bibliography.
Have you ever experienced the hassle of not having the information to complete your bibliography? Develop a routine of writing down the author, title, place of publication, publisher, date of publication and page numbers for articles from magazines, newspapers, encyclopaedias or in anthologies. That way you’ll build a thorough bibliography as you go along.

IT workshop tutors say that some students sometimes think they are using the Internet for an hour for assignment research, when what actually happens is this:

* 10 minutes spent on research - with lots printed out!
* 20 minutes on checking and sending e-mails
* 20 minutes on general sites — shopping/music/cars/soaps/phones/films
* 10 minutes on research — with more printing

This is probably part of your working or learning style, but it is not effective as a research strategy. You need a sense of purpose, so how about analysing your research topic, then making a list of 4 or 5 questions you want answers to? Keep your searching focused and ask for help if you get stuck.

IT workshop tutors say that some students believe everything they read on screen.
The web address (URL) gives clues about the information. A quality information checklist and quick quiz is at Please note that the BBC is not responsible for the content of other websites.

IT workshop tutors say that some students give up easily, claiming ’there wasn’t
anything there’.
There nearly always is something to be found, but you need smart searching tactics to find it. Your aim must be to get the most relevant pages to the top of the results list. Ask others what works for them, and look on the Internet for a guide to using search engines. Think about the scale of the task — one search engine currently has 3 083 324 642 web pages to be searched.
IT workshop tutors say that some students use the Internet to look for images.
Most search engines allow you the option of searching for an image only. Take a moment to check the toolbar; you’re sure to find features you haven’t found before - images can be useful for key skills presentations.

IT workshop tutors say that some students feel overwhelmed by the amount of information.
Information overload is a problem. Write out a list of questions you want to find answers to, and reject information that doesn’t help answer them. If you’re new to research, select the best two or three sources and forget the rest. You can always come back for more.

Workshop tutors say that some students feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they have photocopied or printed off. Here are some tips for making the most of it:
Photo of a pile of papers
Photo of someone sorting through their research

Tips. . .

* Go back to your research question and ask yourself what it means
* Make sure you know how much you’re expected to write
* Underline the key words
* Write down what information you need
* Plan your essay or report — the structures are different for each, so take advice if you’re unsure
* Work out how many words you can write on each point
* Relax for active reading!
* As you read, look for answers to your questions
* Tell yourself the main points or ideas of what you’ve just read
* Link ideas using a mind map
* Use your word limit to guide your reading
* Reject information that is far too detailed for your purpose
* Gain confidence
* Start realising that some bits don’t fit in — you can discard them
* Take notes in whatever way works for you
* Start writing to your plan — start with whatever seems easiest and keep going without worrying about style. It’s a good idea to start by stating things clearly and simply in short sentences
* Work on your first draft — each time you work on your draft it will get better
* Remember to write out your bibliography
* Enjoy improving your work!
* Ask someone to read what you’ve written and give you feedback

Original source: Grab Your Example Essays Now