Building Your Research Skills in...

Building Your Research Skills in University

by Laura Sciarpelletti
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For many students research can seem like a chore. In truth, it is less of a chore and even at times a joy when mastered. The best way to make things easier is to become as familiar with your resources as possible; this means sifting through university library and in-class resources while seeking out your own as well. So let’s break it down!

University Resources

Each university and college has a library website that gives students access to databases and journals for essay and exam research. Here are the top ones for easy access and widespread research:

Academic Search Premier – A multidisciplinary database with over 4,600 entire-text journals, it’s hard not to find what you need for any paper whether its Political Science, History, Sciences or Literature. Some PDF files go further back than 1975 and there are plenty of searchable cite references. Some titles are peer-reviewed and Academic Search makes citing in papers fairly easy and thorough.

JSTOR – While this database covers all manners of topics it is really best for the humanities. Think Anthropology, African-American studies and History. Coverage spans from the nearly the beginning of a particular volume to the most current issue. But this database isn’t just for articles, but rather also for graphs, photographs and other images. Think of this database as a more creative version of Academic Search.


Good Old Fashioned Library Books – Most papers require you to have at least one cited book source rather than strictly all online sources. So get to that massive quiet building on campus and crack a book. Numerous dictionaries, thesauruses and encyclopaedias can be found there and the atmosphere helps a lot with putting students in the research frame of mind. Also, seeing a book visually up-close can really help with concentration. Screens can dull the process.
Personal Resources

Google Scholar – This one is free so you don’t need your university’s power for this one. Google Scholar is not the best, but it’s quick and easily accessible. Find a small group of books, preprints, peer-reviewed papers and technical reports for some quick research. This one is best used as a clue to where to find bigger research sources. It is also handy for annotated bibliography assignments. Google Scholar is not the ultimate tool, but it’s great in a pinch.

Your Class Notes – This may seem like a university research source, but actually its attributes are dependant on your own skills. Take good notes and the resource is going to be most profitable for you. Find ways to make note taking easy and productive for your particular mind; highlight and add personal thoughts when they come to you. Your essay writing will be that much more alive, in-depth and well thought out.

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