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Learning Resource Centre: Research Help

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Where to Start?

Got a research assignment to write? The library is the best place to start with that research. A good place to start might be searching our catalogue. This will show you whether there are any books or journals in the library with information on your topic. Aside from our extensive physical collection, we subscribe to a number of online databases that can give you the best information available on all manner of topics. 

Why Can't I Just Google?

It is OK to use Google to find background or general information as a starting point for assignments. But for scholarly research you need to find accurate information on your topic from a variety of sources. Prepare yourself for university and start looking for in-depth, accurate, well researched works written by academics and researchers. You can find these reputable sources in our research databases or by searching our physical collection for journals and books. 

Step-by-Step Research Guides

For a brilliant detailed description of research techniques and tips go to the State Library of Victoria's website on Research Skills. They have a section for each part of the process. 

slv research skills screenshot

The Stages of Research

process cycle

Researching - The Information Skills Process

Steps in the process:

  • What is my purpose?
  • Why do I need to find this out?
  • What are the key words and ideas of the task?
  • What do I need to do?


"In completing the research project I have":

  • understood the criteria and the requirement of the project 
  • brainstormed the topic
  • selected keywords
  • listed the points that need covering
  • created a concept map and identified the links between various aspects of the topic
  • used De Bono’s Six Hats to arrive at creative solutions
  • created focus question – sub headings
  • created and followed a schedule set out in a timeline
  • asked questions
  • considered availability of resources
  • type of research process required survey/ interview/ literature review /experiment/ qualitative/quantitative /meta-analysis
Make sure to use the Library Catalogue or databases to search for your resources!
For info on web search and using Google have a look at this page.

Need help with the catalogue? Just read our FAQ page.

Steps in the process:

  • What do I already know?
  • What do I still need to find out?
  • What sources and equipment can I use?


"In completing the research project I have":

  • considered a variety of  resources
    • reference books /encyclopedia/ dictionary/ almanacs/ atlas /directory 
    • non fiction books /general books which have a section on the topic/ specific books on the topic/text books
    • periodical and newspaper articles / editorial/ feature story 
    • electronic databases such as the Australian New Zealand Reference Centre
    • Internet / search engines / URL’s containing uni. gov. edu. org. au
    • AV/ documentaries, podcasts
    • people / organizations/ experts/ interviews/ surveys/observation
  • used search tools to locate information – catalogue, keyword search, Boolean search, reference desk, index / contents page/ asking clearly defined question 
If you are using websites in your research, make sure to evaluate the information on them using our tips on this page!


Steps in the process:

  • What information can I leave out?
  • How relevant is the information I have found?
  • How credible is the information I have found?
  • How will I record the information I need?


"In completing the research project I have selected":

  • reliable resources
    •  authoritative/current/ bias and purpose identified 
  • resources appropriate to the project
    • covers the topic in appropriate depth and breath
    • provides the required type of information for project - fact/ opinion/ primary/ secondary / visuals / audio/ quotes/ statistics/ graphs /surveys

Steps in the process:

  • Have I enough information for my purpose?
  • Do I need to use all this information?
  • How can I best combine information from different sources?


"In completing the research project I have":

  • sorted information into categories
  • taken notes in own words
  • quoted accurately
  • accurately taken bibliographic details  
  • drafted and edited ensuring information was relevant to the original question/ criteria
Make sure to check our info on citation and referencing here! 
And writing and presentation tips here!


Steps in the process:

  • What will I do with this information?
  • With whom will I share this information?


"In completing the research project I have":

  • considered the purpose of the presentation – to educate/entertain/persuade
  • considered the audience – age/existing knowledge/culture/special needs
  • communicated using the most appropriate medium for the task and audience/webpage/powerpoint.
  • Presented information concisely and accurately
  • presented information in an appropriate form /essay /report/narrative/submission
  • taken into account different learning styles/visual/auditory/kinesthetic…
  • included reference / bibliography

Steps in the process:

  • Did I fulfill my purpose?
  • How did I go - with each step of the information process?
  • How did I go - presenting the information?
  • Where do I go from here?


"In completing the research project I have":

  • analyzed how effectively each stage of the research process was conducted
  • identified research skills needing improvement
  • analyzed how effective the final product was in meeting the set task / criteria
  • considered the limitations of the research  methodology
  • considered the quality and validity of the information gathered
  • taken into consideration feedback from teacher/audience

The CRAAP Test

Before you decide to use a webpage for your assignment, you need to evaluate it by these criteria. This is sometimes known as the 'CRAAP' test.

Look through the tabs and ask yourself these questions about the information you have found.

Remember - when evaluating sources, your assignment instructions play an important role as well because that is what dictates the type of information you are allowed or required to use.

If you want more evaluation help - go to the State Library of Victoria's site on selecting resources.

Evaluate sources based on currency by asking the following questions:

  • When was the source published or written?
  • Is the time of publication or writing important for your topic?
  • Is there more current research available on the same topic?
  • Is the date evident for any visual aids, such as graphs, charts or tables?
  • Are the links up to date or are they broken?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?

Currency is only important if your topic dictates using the most recent information available. For example, if you are writing a research paper about the Civil War, currency is not important. However, if you are writing about the treatments for autism, currency is important, as science and technology change quite rapidly.

Evaluate sources based on the content and relevance by asking the following questions:

  • Does the content address the topic effectively?
  • Are the key questions about your topic answered within the content?
  • Does the content seem like it is likely to help your research?
  • Does the content provide any information that is new or useful?
  • Is the information basic and cursory or detailed and scholarly? Is the information substantial? 
  • Was the page worth visiting?
  • Who is the intended audience of page?

If the content is lacking or does not address your topic, you should not use the source.

Evaluate sources on the authority of the author and the publisher by asking the following questions:

  • Who is the author?
  • Can you find the authority or credentials of the author?
    • Is the author an expert in this field? Are they qualified to write about this subject?
  • Does the author or publisher provide contact details?
  • Can you find the authority or credentials of the publisher?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    • examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)
  • What if there is no author for an internet source?

If you cannot find information regarding the authority of the author or publisher while evaluating sources, you should not use the source. For internet sources without an author, the reliability is in question. Websites or publications by government agencies or well-established non-profit organizations are more reliable even with the absence of a named author.

Evaluate sources on the accuracy of information by asking the following questions:

  • Does the information in the article appear correct?
  • Does the article have a bibliography or reference list?
  • Is it clear where the author got his or her information?
  • Is it obvious who is responsible for the information?
  • Is it free from spelling errors?
  • Is the text well-written and grammatically correct?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Has the content been through an editing process or been peer reviewed?
  • Are the sources cited reliable and can they be verified elsewhere?
  • Are research methodologies adequately explained?

If you cannot verify that the information is correct or that the author is an expert on the topic, you should not use the source.

Evaluate sources on their purpose, objectivity and bias by asking the following questions:

  • Is the objectivity of the source clear? Does it seem impartial? 
  • Is the information fact or personal opinion?
  • Is there any obvious bias? e.g. political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal bias?
    • Is the website part of a commercial organisation, a political party or an organisation with a specific agenda, including advertising? If yes, question the motives for publishing the information.
  • Are other points of view explored?
  • Is the purpose obvious and clear?
  • Is the sole purpose of the article to give information, or does it promote or try to sell something?
    • i.e. is the purpose to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?

The nature of your assignment and your topic determine how important it is for your sources to be objective. A lack of objectivity is not an automatic reason to dismiss a source if it fits the assignment and the topic while still allowing you to find other sources with opposing viewpoints.

Created by Michelle De Aizpurua