This is the "Assignment Research" page of the "Research & Study Guide" guide.
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Research & Study Guide  

Advice on study skills - finding resources, writing assignments, citing sources and the like
Last Updated: Jun 21, 2011 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Assignment Research Print Page

E Literacy

After viewing the video on Information Literacy and what it is on the Academic Honesty page of this guide, view the one called Discover Information Literacy (see link below) to review a system of doing assignments based on the word DISCOVER, as follows:

D efine

I nquire

S earch

C ollect

O rganise

V erify

E xpress

R eflect

Information Skills Modules

This links to the information skills modules from Sydney University covering topics such as:

  • How to reference
  • Searching the Catalogue
  • Plagiarism
  • Using databases to find journal articles
  • Identifying scholarly articles
  • Endnote
  • How to do a Literature Review

and more...     Scroll to the bottom of the page to find them


The 9 Step Process - 1. Define your topic

It might seem obvious, but the first step is to make sure you understand the topic.

1) Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question to help you develop a search strategy.

2) Work out why the topic is being offered.  Is it:

controversial?  complicated?  what makes the topic interesting?



2. Gather background information

Use dictionaries and encyclopaedias to find definitions and background information and get a general overview of the topic.  A useful bibliography is often found at the end of encyclopedia articles.  Articles from specialized subject encyclopaedias and dictionaries are authoritative and often substantial.

Browse a list of reference sources for your area of study.   See the lists on the 'Internet Resources' page and the 'Finding Background Information' page of this guide.


3. Think about what information you need

How much information do you need? Lecturers often give guidelines on the number of sources you should use.

Do you need current information or is older material relevant? Sometimes you might need both, as you might have to give both the historic background and the current thinking on a topic.

Do you need primary sources that give original accounts from the time and place, or secondary sources which are interpretations of someone else's work?

If you don't understand what you have to do for an assignment, ask your lecturer or your tutor.


4. Find books

Search the Library catalogue:

  • Check for books in the Reserve Collection
  • Use Title, Subject and Keyword searches to find additional material.
  • When you find a useful title, click on its subject headings to find books on similar subjects.

  • Browse the library shelves in the classification sequence for your area of study e.g. Philosophy 100-199.
  • Browse the catalogue Call Number index in the drop down menu, e.g. 110 for Metaphysics, 170 for Ethics

Read more on searching the catalogue on the 'Finding Resources via the Library Catalogue' page in this guide.


5. Find journal articles

The catalogue lists journal titles, but not the titles of the articles inside the journals. To find these you'll need to search the recommended databases for your area of study e.g. for Philosophy choose the Philosophers' Index.  Then, of course, you can search the Serial Holdings File for particular articles once you know the journal or journals they are in.  


 Read more on finding articles at the 'Finding Articles' page of this studyguide.


If you can't find the kind of information you want on these databases, ask the reference staff - we can help you choose the right database and the right search terms to use.


6. Find information on the internet

The internet has a lot of information, but not all of it is useful or reliable. Consider the source of the website. Suitable sources are

  • a government department
  • an academic or university department
  • a research institute

Use the Advanced Search features of Google Scholar to restrict your search to results from reputable sources.

Some sites for your study area can be found on the Internet Resources page of this guide.

Use articles from Wikipedia as a starting point only, and use its content (eg keywords or phrases) to search other sources

Use Google Scholar to find academically reliable journal articles. Adjust the Scholar Preference to recognise the Catholic Institute of Sydney, and you will get full text whenever it is available through our library subscriptions.

For information on evaluating websites, see:

Evaluating Web Sites: Criteria and Tools (Cornell University)


7. Analyze your sources

Learning how to determine the relevance and authority of a given resource for your research is one of the core skills of the research process.

For information on analyzing sources, see:

Critically Analyzing Information Sources (Cornell University)


8. Cite your sources

Look professional and keep out of trouble by citing all the sources of information you use in your essay.  Use the guide to referencing and footnoting which can be found in the Institute Handbook, in Section 24 "Guidelines for Written Work" pages 2 to 5 in the 2010 Handbook, available on the Institute website.

Read more on the Citation Guide page in this guide.


9. Write your assignment

The Library has some useful writing guides for this subject area.  See the Writing Guides page of this guide for the list.

Attend the Study Skills workshop days held each semester at the Institute for assistance with writing your essay.

Veech Library - Catholic Institute of Sydney

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Writing Research Papers

About Writing Papers

Writing a research paper is a process that involves:

  • A topic: "I am writing about …"

  • A question: "… because I want to find out what/why/how …"

  • The significance: "… in order to help understand …"

The resources on this page will help you develop skills in research and writing. These include:

  • Organizing your research

  • Structuring your paper

  • Writing in a clear and precise fashion

See also a good detailed description in Pitts Theology Library, Emory University's Tutorial on Writing Research Papers.


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