When you’re starting to research, whether it’s for an exam, an assignment or a presentation, there are a few ways to make the most of your time.
Identify Key Words
What exactly is it that you are trying to research? Write down some key words, or themes that you want to explore. You can use this words as a starting point when searching online or when checking the index pages of books. If you are doing an assignment, reread the question and highlight any words that seem particularly important.
Check the Recommended Reading List
Most classes will have a list of recommended reading. This is a list of books of references that the lecture has identified as being particularly relevant to whatever subject they are teaching. This can be a great place to start. When looking for information sources
Keep Track of Your Sources
If you are taking notes as you are reading through an article, make sure you are also taking note of the name of the book, the author and the page number. A common problem new students experience is that when they finish writing their assignment and it comes time to write the reference list, they can remember which information they got from which source. One way of avoiding this is to be updating your reference list during the researching stage, rather than leaving it until last.
Read the Abstract
The abstract is a short summary that comes at the start of an academic paper. If you read the abstract, you will be able to tell quite quickly whether this article is relevant to what you are researching or not. This can save you a lot of time trudging through dense academic writing.
Skim Through Documents
Try to skim through documents looking for key words or phrases, rather than reading the whole document sentence by sentence. It might not be the best use of your time to read an entire 35 page chapter, when there may only be a sentence or two that is relevant to what you are researching.
Consider Alternative Sources of Information
When starting to research a topic, most students will automatically go to the shelves of the library. While if you are researching a very specialist or new topic, you might consider also using academic journals, newspaper articles, websites, e-journals, videos, documentaries or radio interviews as sources. It you are going to do this, make sure the information is coming from a reputable source and that you are able to reference the information properly.