Research Guide

1. Read your Assignment Guidelines

Before you begin your research, you need to understand the SCOPE of the work you need to do. Your assignment guidelines usually include the following:


What is the purpose of the assignment?

  • To compare and contrast ideas?
  • To persuade someone of your views?
  • To inform the audience about a topic?


  • Is there a minimum number of sources you need to have?
  • What type of sources are required/ allowed?
    • Primary, Secondary, scholarly, newspaper, books, reference, etc.
  • Do you need to use peer-reviewed articles?
  • Is there a particular citation format you need to use?
  • Are there layout requirements? Paragraph spacing? Font size?
  • How many pages or words should there be?
  • Is a bibliography / reference list required?

2. Understand Your Topic

  • Start by looking up background information about your topic
  • Look up any words or phrases you are unsure of
  • Use general and subject-specific reference sources (online encyclopedias like Wikipedia, dictionaries, Google Search, etc.)
  • Background information will give you an idea of how much and what kind of information is available on a particular topic
  • Background information will also introduce you to potential keywords
  • Brainstorm and develop keywords from your topic guidelines and background information research
  • Generate related terms and narrow terms; look for synonyms to optimize your search
  • Use Boolean Operators to combine your keywords together in different ways to create search strings

4. Decide on a Source

  • Determine which resource you need to use, depending on the purpose and requirements of your assignment and the topic
  • Do you need journal articles? Magazines? Authority websites? Newspapers?
  • Enter your search strings to find the most relevant results
  • Apply strategies on the results page to narrow, broaden, filter and limit your results

6. Evaluate Information

  • Once you have selected an item, decide if it provides Current, Accurate and Relevant information
  • Is it appropriate for your needs?

7. Organize, Manage and Present your Information

  • Export and save your information; Keep track of your resources!
  • Prepare and present your information in a meaningful way
  • How do your sources support your assignment purpose?
  • Use the information responsibly and ethically by paraphrasing and referencing other people’s ideas and words and creating a bibliography or reference list.