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Using Written Resources

Using Libraries

Using Libraries in Person

Reading Skills

Different Methods of Reading

Finding out your Reading Speed

Note Taking

Writing a Research Report











The Learning Game

Researching and Writing Assignments

Doing research and writing assignments are two of the most important skills you will need for tertiary study. Firstly, researching information and secondly writing the assignment.
Apart from writing assignment these same research skills are very useful for a range of other tasks like:

  • finding out about a specific area of your subject in more detail
  • preparing for exams
  • broadening your knowledge of a subject.


There are roughly 5 steps involved in researching information (depending on the nature of the task).

 1. Analyze

 2. Find

3. Use

 4. Take notes

 5. Organize

1. Analyze

First clarify what specifically you are going to be doing and why. If preparing for an assignment, be sure that you understand what is required. Many markers suggest that students do not pay careful enough attention to the topic.

  • Examine the question carefully.
  • Do you understand what is being asked? Is the topic clear to you?
  • What approach is required? Examine the direction word carefully. There is a difference in approach between being asked to "Discuss", "Compare", "Analyze" or "Describe". Make sure you do what is asked.
  • Are you expected to do some research or simply work with your study guide material?
  • What format is expected? All teachers have special requirements about the way assignments are presented. Make sure you know what these are.
  • Are you expected to write an evaluative report or a formal essay? The format you choose at the beginning should reflect these requirements.
  • Are you expected to write in the first or the third person? How formal should your approach be?

2. Find

Once you have analyzed what is needed you should have a clearer idea of where to find information. There may be enough information in your study guides to complete the assignment. You may, however, need to get some books from the library. Some institutions offer postal services, so that students can borrow books from the institution's library by post. If this service is offered, use it. You will be surprised at how efficient many libraries are. See Using Libraries for more information.

3. Use

More often than not you will find that you have more information than you either need or can read. You will not have enough time to read everything on the subject so the secret is to be selective. Scan each book or journal first to get a quick overview of what is covered. This will enable you to prioritize your reading and you will be able to avoid reading superfluous material.

4. Take Notes

Whether you are preparing for an assignment or simply broadening your knowledge, the notes you take should be relevant to the task. If you are taking notes for exams, for example, they can be broad overviews with little detail. But if you taking notes for an assignment. be more careful about where ideas came from and be careful to take all quotations down accurately.
See Note-Taking

5. Organize

You will be able to use the same information gathered for writing an assignment or for exam revision. But, the only way notes are going to help you learn anything is if you review and organize them soon after you've made them. Up to 60% of detail can be forgotten in the first 24 hours after first learning something. If you return to your notes within this critical time you will vastly improve your chances of remembering and learning the information. Any comments you have made or any summaries will still be fresh in your mind. You will now be able to expand any section or clarify obscure references. This will also give you an opportunity to integrate ideas. This revision period is when most of the real learning takes place.

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The page was designed and edited in May 1998 by Karl Mair.