Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (2023)

Welcome

Research Essentials will help you level up your researching skills, including tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your time searching, reading, and writing.

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (1) Identify
Understand the task
Plan your efforts
Use yourmarking criteria rubric
Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (2) Find
Journal articles
Booksand ebooks
Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (3) Choose
Prioritise your sources
Scholarly and peer-reviewedsources
Evaluate the sources that you find
Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (4) Use
Write in academic style
Integrate your research into your writing
Citeand referenceyour sources

Short on time?

Try these 3 quick tips to improve your research

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (5)

1. Wondering where to start?

Get tailored advice from our Library Guides

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (6)
2. Searching in Google?

Switch to Google Scholar or Discovery for academic results

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (7)
3. Reference correctly to get those easy marks

Take note of key details you would need to find that resource again, anduse Re:Cite

Identifying your assessment task

Before you start researching, take some time to understand the assessment task. Make sure you knowwhat the expectations are around the work you are producing. This will save you time, help you better target your research, and make sure you produce relevant work.

Ask yourself the following key questions as you begin your research:

Are you expected to describe, compare, evaluate, or discuss? Should you focus on the texts or information you've been given in class, or will you are you expected to find other sources? What are the word limit, due-date and format restrictions?

Most assessment tasks will have a marking rubric or guide which will tell you how much of the assignment's total grade is allocated for each aspect of the task. Use the rubric as a guide as to how much time to dedicate to each portion of the assignment.

For example, your assignment rubric might say '30% of marks for evidence to support claims' and '10% for accurate and consistent referencing'. Although accurate referencing is always important, for this assignment you should spend more time on finding evidence to support your claims than on referencing.

The subject guide will tell you which referencing style you need to use.

If you are researching your own topic, your weekly readings (both prescribed and recommended) are a great place to start your research.

Reading your assessment task

Watch this short video (1:25) on how to analyseyour assessment task:

Analysing the assignment question or topic

These are commonly used words that signal the expectations of the marker.

  • Direction words: Words, usually verbs, that tell you what you have to do.For example, 'discuss' or'compare'.
  • Content words: Words that deal with topics or subtopics and identify the material you should focus on.
  • Limiting words: Words that limit the scope of the topic to a particular area. For example, all, some, the majority of;references to time, place(s) and/or specific group(s).

Download a handy2-page PDF that explains over 20 direction words

​Test yourself

Checkyour understanding with the quickactivity below.Which words would you use to guide your search for assignment resources?

Further resources for specific tasks

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (8)Is your task different to what we've talked about above (e.g., are youwriting a report)?

See Further Resources about how to approach specific tasks

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Understanding your marking rubric

A marking rubric outlines the criteria which you will be assessed by, and is usually presented as a table. It shows you what your lecturer or tutor are looking for when they mark your work.

Looking at the marking rubric before you start researching can help you get a better idea of the types and range of resources or references you need to include.

You may be required to meet criteria based on:

Quantity:are you expected to use aminimum number of references?

Quality: are you expected to usescholarlyresources or​peer-reviewedjournal articles?

Sources:are you expected to use:

  • primaryand/orsecondarysources, if applicable?
  • specificbooks/journals?
  • specificdatabases?
  • yourunit's required and/or recommendedreadings?or are you prohibited from citing these resources?
  • sources that you find on your own (e.g. independent research)?

Where to start your research
Using your reading list or textbook to jumpstart your research:

Your recommended reading list or textbook can be a useful place to start your research, as all the sources referred to have been chosen becausethey are high quality. While you may be asked to find your own resources, your recommended reading list or textbook can still be a useful starting point in your research because theyoffer:

  • Background,introductionand context:Familiariseyourself with thekey figures, concepts and/or eventscovered in your subject area
  • Keywords:Identifyspecialisedlanguage or subject specific wordsto use in your search
  • Direction to other related and reliable resources:Review thereference list and/or bibliographyto find out about further sources that could be relevant to your assignment

Resources listed in your class reading list may beavailable in a digital format viaReadings Onlinein the subject LMS, or in hard copy for limited loan periods in theHigh Use Collectionof your library.

Check the library catalogue to find if you have access to sources referred to in your textbook.

Finding resources for your assignments

Once you know what you are looking for, you need to pick the best search strategy for that type of resource. Search strategies depend on:

  • the type of resourceyou are looking for

  • the area of knowledge (e.g. looking for scientific findings is a different process to lookingthrough old newspapers)

The process of finding sources can often expose you to new terms and concepts that you can use in your searches.Don't worry if you don't get exactly the results you want in your first search - repeating searches with different terms is a normal part ofacademic research.

This section will cover:

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (9) Tips on how to improve your search experience

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (10) Finding books

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (11)Finding journal articles

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (12)Finding dictionaries and encyclopedias, also known as reference material

Books, journal articles and reference materialare common resources used in research, and may be found in hardcopyor available digitally online.

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (13)Your search options

Learn about the different search tools that you can use to get started in the video below (1:52):

Searching effectively

Thoroughly understanding your assessment task will help yousearch for resources more effectively.

The twovideos below step you through the process of breaking down your research topic into keywords and show you the different ways you can track down related information sources by using advanced search features:

Templates for your search plan

Ready to plot your ideas in a search plan? Download the template Word documents below to get started:

  • Basic search plan template. Word document (File size 59 kb)

    (Video) 🤔 2+2=5 proved | cool tricks of mathematics | #uLyk learn #maths #students #learning #shorts

    Use this document to develop a search plan for your research.

  • Search plan template for research students. Word document (file size 70kb)

    Use this document to develop a search plan for your research.

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (14)Finding books and eBooks

Use your keywords to search the Library catalogueforbooks and ebooks.

Ebooksareavailable 24/7. Use theConnect toebooklink to access theebook.

  • Log in with your student username and password to access

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (15)

Watch thisshort video (3:21) for a demonstration on how to use the Library Catalogue:

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (16)Finding journal articles

Journal articles are an excellent source of current and in-depth information on academic topics.

  • Journals are usually published periodically in volumes and issues (monthly, quarterly or annually). A large number of journals are alsopublished online and you can find them using the Library's databases, Discovery,and Google Scholar (more on these resources later).

  • Journals usually have a theme or specialty and articles in them are ontopics surrounding that theme. For example, theJournal of Australian Political Sciencecontains articles that relate to Australian politics.

Knowing how to find relevant journal articles is a critical research skill and one that you will be relying on more and more as youprogress through your degree. Use the tools and tips below to find journal articles and other periodicals.

Use Discovery to locate journal articles

  • The search box on the library homepage connects to the University of Melbourne's main search tool, Discovery.

  • Enter your search terms. A results list will display and a number of options to limit your search.

  • Limit to "peer reviewed journals" to restrict the search results to journal articles..

  • Try using the advanced search options to refine your search further.

  • Click on FindIt@Unimelb to be directed to our holdings

  • If you have the exact article title, putting it in double quotations in the search field which will find the exact article.

Get set up and connected with these three great search tools

Search smarter

Are you expected to describe, compare, evaluate, or discuss? Should you focus on the texts or information you've been given in class, or will you are you expected to find other sources? What are the word limit, due-date and format restrictions?

  • Use AND, OR, NOT to link your keywords. Watch this video for a quick overview of how to use

  • Double quotations around phrases will search for the correct combination of words e.g. "climate change"

  • Truncation (*) will search variations for a word (e.g. lead* searches for leaders, leading, leadership

  • Wildcard (?) will searches variations of a character (e.g. organi?ational searches for organisational and organizational)

  • Look at related material and database suggestions: Check the bibliography for related materials. Some databases also have a cited by function where you can see similar relevant articles

Use a Library Guide

The best way to locate databases for your area of study is to look at our Library Guides by subject area

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (17)Finding dictionaries and encyclopedias

Dictionaries and encyclopedias are also known as reference material or reference sources. Many are now available online with regular updates.They offer:

  • Concise overviews of a broad range of topics
  • Definitions of terms and concepts
  • Scholarly references and bibliographies

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (18)Findhigh-quality reference materials for your discipline areawith our Library Guides.

Are you looking for different resources that aren't mentioned here?

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (19)Browse our General Guides for tips onfinding specialised resources like newspapers, theses, images and more...

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Choosing the right resources

Choosing the right resources will help highlight your research skillsand save you time. With so many resources available online, how do you know what is the 'right'resource?

This section will give you tips to help evaluate the quality of the resources you have found:

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (20) Identifying scholarly sources

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (21) PROMPT: 5 checks for quality

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (22) What are scholarly / peer reviewed sources?

Scholarly information is:

  • evidence-based

  • well-researched

  • has undergone rigorous review by experts in that respective field.

Here are examples of types of scholarly information you might encounter in your research:

These may include books, peer-reviewed journals, maps, monographs, images, audio-visual resources and other materials in different formats.

The term ‘scholarly information’ also refers to other primary sources typically collected by a library, museum or archive such as artefacts, personal letters and business records.

These could include course notes, presentation slides, compilations of selected readings for a particular subject, lecture recordings, as well as materials accessed through the Learning Management System (LMS).

These may include data collected from scientific instrumentation and laboratory work, information collected from surveys and interviews, records of meetings and conversations between collaboration partners, models, plans or images created in the course of design, architectural or ethnographic research.

This may also refer to papers, chapters, monographs, articles, letters, presentations, posters, demonstrations and speeches, visualisations of large datasets, models, web sites and multimedia objects. Information produced for the purposes of community engagement can be considered a subset of this category.

What are peer-reviewedor refereed articles?
  • 'Refereed' or 'peer-reviewed' journalarticles must be evaluated by other experts in the same research field before they are accepted for publication.These articles are considered to be of high academic quality.

How can you find peer-reviewed articles?
  • Discovery has an option to just search for peer-reviewed journal articles in the left menu

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (23)

  • You can also use a database that only searches peer reviewed sources, like Scopus or Web of Science.
Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (24) How to evaluate your resources
Keep in mind: Not all sources are created equal
Choosing the right resources to use can make a significant difference to the quality of your assignment.

Whileyou are searching for resources, put them to the test by using thePROMPT(Presentation,Relevance,Objectivity,Method,Provenance,Timeliness)set of criteria below to ensure you are using quality resources that will help answer your assignment question.

Good resources are presented in such a way that extracting the information from it is as simple and straightforward as possible. Ask yourself: Is the information presented clearly? Can I find what I need easily? Does the resource use formal or informal language?

Scan a particular resource quickly and consider whether the information provided contains specific details pertinent to your research. Determine whether the resource contains useful information about the time period, geographic area, or group of people you are researching.

It is important to scrutinise whether the source is authentic and credible. Consider the perspective from which the author of the resource is writing about the issue, and ask whether:

  • the author is stating a fact or expressing an opinion

  • the author has vested interests in expressing a particular point of view. For example, are they selling a product or being sponsored?

  • the language used is emotive.

It is important to consider what kind of method the author has used in arriving at their conclusion. In scientific research, for example, it may be important to consider aspects of the experimental design, such as sample sizes and control groups that were used.

  • How was the data collected and analysed?

  • Were these methods appropriate for the type of research involved?

Good resources come from authoritative sources. It is therefore important to determine who authored the resource before deciding to use them in your research.

  • Is the source attributed properly? Can you clearly identify the author?

  • Is the author an expert in their field or subject area?

  • If the resource was created by an organisation, what kind are they (e.g. commercial, educational, government etc.)? Are they well established?

  • Has the source undergone an editorial or peer review process?

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Before using a particular resource, it is important to be aware of whether it still reflects current thinking in your field of study. Doing so will allow you to incorporate pertinent information in your assignment.

  • When was it published?

  • Is the information corroborated by other sources?


Writing your essay/report

Use your research

All the hard work put intoresearching only matters if the material you findis used effectively. Show your reader you have put in the work, distinguish your ideas versus those from other authors and integrate what you've found into the task with the tips below.

Library Guides: Research Essentials: <i class="fa fa-home fa-lg" aria-hidden="true"></i> Welcome (25)Writing academic essays

Writing (or presenting) at university comes with unique expectations and norms. This is good training as communication is always contextual - a message toyourfriends, an article on yourblog, or a reportto your boss should look and feel different. Once you've done yourreading, how do you integrate your research with your writing?Here are 4quick things to get you started:

1. Use academic style

Small but important details like language, tone and neutrality can radically affect the style of your writing. This video provides practical tips and examples, and a list of things to avoid.

2. Use academic structure

Structuring complex ideas so they can be easily understood is a skill in itself. This video will answer some simple questions (like how long should a paragraph be) to some complex iterative ones (how to improve cohesion in writing?)

3.Paraphraseideas in your writing

Now that you've done all the research, how do you represent it in your writing? Too often research is dropped into writingmaking it disjointed, hard to read and, worst of all, difficult to evaluate. This video explains why and how you should paraphrase:

4. Acknowledgeyour sources

Yourlecturer, faculty or school mayrequireyou to cite and reference your sources by following a specific citation style.Check in your subject guide or LMS for details on a preferred citation style.

The video below will give you a quick introduction tothe basics of referencing and citing and where you can go to get help:

Once you know which citation style you need to follow, useRe:Cite,the University’s online hub for referencing style guides and resourcesto find out how to cite and referenceyour sources. It is important thatyou consistently follow the style guide instructions and cite, acknowledge andattribute the ideas from othersources, you use in your assessments.Re:Cite provides clear instructions and examples of howto cite and reference different sources.

Click and expand the headings below for a quick introduction to citing and referencing:

  • Citing is the formal way of acknowledging information sources within the body of your essay, report or paper and points your reader to the specific part of the original source.
  • Referencing is a list of information sources that you have cited and is included at the end of your essay, report or paper as a reference list or bibliography (more on these terms below).

A reference or citation list only includes sources to which you refer, quote or actively use in your assignment or body of work. Bibliographies list all information sources you reviewed during your research. Check your style guide to confirm which is required.

  • It's how we can track the sharing of ideas: Accurately citing your sources allows others to follow and verify your research. In turn, you can use references in your reading to find other relevant resources for your research. This is known as 'citation mining'.

  • It's the right thing to do: When you use other people's ideas in your writing and research, it is ethical to acknowledge those sources and recognise their ownership and hard work. Not properly or fully acknowledging others' work can be plagiarism and may be subject to severe consequences. See the University of Melbourne Academic Honesty and plagiarism website for examples of what constitutes plagiarism, and tips on how to avoid plagiarising.

  • It's also the law: Uphold copyright law, avoid accidental plagiarism (yes, this can happen!) and avoid infringing the moral rights of other scholars.

  • Know your referencing style. There are many referencing styles. Check your assignment instructions or subject guide to determine which referencing style you will use.
  • Use Re:Cite (Unimelb Library's Referencing Guide. Re:Cite is the University of Melbourne's interactive library website that summarises rules for the main referencing styles used at the University. It also provides examples on how to create a reference list, create in-text citations and more.

Using reference management software is an easier way to manage your information sources. You can use these to:

  • Quickly download references from databases
  • Store and organise your references
  • Insert citations and generate bibliographies
  • Easily change the citation styles as required
  • Share your references with others for collaboration

Ready to try using reference management software? Visit our guide on reference management, or just jump straight in and try Zotero.

Further help

Academic Skills

Contact Academic Skills for helpwith academic writing, critical reading and assessment planning.

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The Library

Contact the Library to helpwith finding, evaluating and referencing assignment resources.

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