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Research Help: Research process

Finding information for assignments

What am I writing about?

Before you begin your research it is a good idea to take the time to be very clear about your topic. What are the key concepts or ideas?
From this it is worth spending a few minutes brainstorming some keywords – the words that you will use to look for information. Remember: having more than one keyword to describe the same concept can be a good idea as it will allow you to get different results.

What sort of information do I need?

It is worth remembering that you can get different kinds of information from different places.
Ask yourself what sort of information do I need, and where might I find it? This list of suggestions could get you started:

  • Full, comprehensive or historical coverage can be found in books and reports.
  • Recent trends and developments in a topic can be found in magazines or newspaper articles. The online databases provided by the library can be an efficient way to find these.
  • Brief / factual / statistical information can often be found in dictionariesencyclopedias, handbooks, yearbooks or other reference books.
  • Personal interviews can be a good way of getting industry overviews, or expert opinions.
  • TV / film / documentaries can provide good overviews and ‘how to’ information

You will find that sometimes these resources will be online, sometimes off line, and sometimes there will be a ‘hard copy’ and an ‘e-version’ of the same resource. It doesn’t matter which you use, but it is worth remembering that not everything is online, and not everything online is available for free.

What does the library offer?

What does the library offer?

The library has lots of books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs and other information resources to support your course. The library also subscribes to many eResources which you have free access to while you are a student. To search for materials in the library use the links on the library website (you can use it from home if you like).

Try searching the library catalogue using your keywords.


Subject guides

Library staff have produced a number of subject guides that can help direct you more quickly to resources relevant to your study area. Select the appropriate link from the subject guides box on the library website.


Databases and other online resources

The library has access to a number of online databases that allow you to search for magazine and newspaper articles, videos, Australian Standards and other valuable resources. Select

Select the appropriate link from the Online Resources page on the library website.

If you are off-campus you will need to enter your network login and password.


Library staff

Don’t let yourself get to the stage where you are tearing your hair out and spending unproductive hours in front of the computer screen. If you are having trouble finding the information you need, please ask library staff for help. They may be able to tell you in seconds where to locate the information you need, or spend time guiding you in using the library resources to find what you need.

Understand the Assignment

Before you start researching

  1. Gather all information you already have: notes, assignment question
  2. Check the due date, word count and how you will be marked
  3. Clarify any words in the assignment that you do not understand
  4. Know the format - essay, report, oral presentation etc.
  5. Write down everything you know and want to know about the topic
  6. Ask your teacher if you need further clarification


Keywords are the main words in the assignment topic that tell you what you need to find information about.

1.  Highlight keywords in assignment topic

2.  Brainstorm other words or phrases that have a similar meaning

3.  Use this key words to form a search term or search enquiry.

4.  Narrow or broaden your search by adding and taking away keywords


For more search advice, have a look at Boolean Search

Developing Keywords, University of Houston Libraries

Online courses

Making Sense : a student's guide to research and writing
Longman Academic Writing Series : 5 Essays to research papers
Your Research Project : designing and planning your work
Doing Focus Groups
Research Methods : a process of inquiry
Case Study Research : principles and practices
The Undergraduate Research Handbook
Research Methodology : a step-by-step guide for beginners
Conducting Research Literature Reviews : from the Internet to paper
Research methods in health : foundations for evidence-based practice
Building in research and evaluation : human inquiry for living systems