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Academic Skills

Research

In order to research successfully, you will need to:

Decide what you need to know

Analyse the question; before you can start, you need to understand thoroughly what is being asked. Highlight the key terms (for a clearer idea of what the most common instructions mean, visit the Glossary).

Think about each of the words used. Discuss it with other students or a friend. If still in doubt, ask your tutor or AST to explain what is required. Don’t forget the little words like "and" and "or". Ask questions of the question, particularly any terms or phrases specific to the topic. Once you are clear you understand what is being asked of you, check what you already know. Go through any lecture, seminar or reading notes (see Note-making section) and collate all that you have which is relevant to the topic.

Mind mapping software can be very useful at this stage (Try http://cmap.ihmc.us/ for a free download that is easy to use). Keep it simple using brief notes or single words to create a framework. The trick is to balance being imaginative and wide ranging with keeping a focus on the question. Make sure that everything on your list is necessary to answer the question and then decide where the gaps are.

Identify the resources you need

Always check module handbooks for indicative resources for assignments. Also make a note of any titles or authors mentioned in lectures or seminars.

The library staff are always keen to help. Simply clicking on their web page gives you all the information you need to access resources. For practical information on how to use the library go to library borrowing section of the website.

Electronic resources are invaluable these days. In order to get up to date academic material you need to know how to access journals and databases. Again the library staff are there to help. Go to How do I find Information for my Studies? and if still unsure, ask your AST, contact a librarian or go to the library and ask. Never just give up; your first year is the best time to learn how to use the resources but throughout your academic career there is help available if you need it.

As well as journals you will use the internet to find useful material, but it's important to use the right material. For instance, Wikipedia might be a useful starting point but it is not suitable as an academic reference.

Remember at this stage that anything you use will need to be referenced so take a note of the details you need. (See Referencing Section).

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