Researching Skills


Students are able to undertake effective research for a wide range of purposes and audiences.


Research can sometimes be overwhelming at first, sometimes resulting in procrastination, but if students follow these steps, it will help them maintain focus and academic integrity and honesty. Although these steps might look rigid, once they are used a few times, they can be adapted for personal preferences, but the process remains similar.


1. Identifying and narrowing the research focus

Ask these questions:

a. What contradictions or ironies are apparent in the topic you are interested in / provided?  Identifying ironies or contradictions will help with a strong, focused argument and analytic approach.

b. Who is your audience?

c. What is the product  —  a traditional paper? an oral presentation?  something else?

You may also start with a focus sentence:

“I am researching _________________ (focused topic) because I want to find out about ____________ (issue/question) in order to _________________ (application/purpose).

Ex: I am researching ethanol as an alternative fuel (topic) because I want to find out the pros and cons of its use and formulate my opinion (issue/question) in order to persuade my readers that my position is correct (application/purpose).


2. Identifying sources and keeping a record of the sources used

What sources will be used  —  digital?  print?  interviews/primary sources?   How many?  What is the scope of the research?

Here are some tips for internet search strategies from Google:

  • Use Boolean constructs AND, OR, NOT.  These are case sensitive and must be in CAPS.
    • Ex: ants AND  pants (searches for sites with both of these terms)
    • Ex. ants OR pants (searches for sites with either of these terms)
    • Ex. ants NOT pants (searches for sites with fire, but no reference to ants)

– To search for a phrase, put it in quotes, like this: “ants in your pants”

  • To search for a certain file type, add filetype:doc  or  filetype:pdf
  • To search for a site from a certain country, add: location:uk  (for a full list of county codes, go to:
  • To search for a site from an educational organisation, add

More tips can be found at:


3. Evaluating credibility

Always check the source of your resources.  How do you know if they are credible?

  1. Who is the author?   Does this person come from a recognised institute?
  2. Could he / she be biased?
  3. Will you accept personal recounts?  How will this impact your research?
  4. When was written work published?


4. Taking notes (see section on note-taking strategies)


5. Citing sources 

Use APA should be used to cite all of sources for in-text referencing.  To help with APA referencing formats, students may use the SON OF CITATION MACHINE at:


See attached template that is adaptable for student use.



Step-by-Step Guide & Research Rescue. (2013, January 1). . Retrieved July 26, 2014, from


Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

Skip to toolbar