Starting Your ResearchPicture by Alpha six. Used under Creative Commons license.

  1. Analyse and define your topic
  2. Find background information
  3. Develop your research using relevant resources
  4. Evaluate your resources
  5. Manage and organise your information
  6. Cite your references

1. Analyse and define your topic

Identify key concepts in your topic. For example:

"Does advertising encourage teenagers to take up smoking?"

The key concepts have been bolded. You might also like to consider advertizing, adolescents, children and/or cigarettes.

2. Find background information

Use encyclopaedias to find background information on your subject.

The Library has many useful general and subject specific dictionaries. Try searching Findit for encyclopaedia and <your discipline>. For example, a keyword search for encyclopaedia and microbiology will find encyclopaedias in that field.

3. Develop your research using relevant resources

Findit has made it easy to find resources. Simply enter the keywords from your topic and it will search across most of the Library's resources including books and journal articles.

Our subject librarians have created a series of subject guides that provide direction when performing more in-depth literature searches.

4. Evaluate your resources

Evaluate your resources in terms of relevance, currency, reliability and accuracy.

Relevance

Is the resource relevant to your topic? Do you really want to reference an essay on the use of metaphor in Animal Farm when you're actually writing an essay on epidemiology of agricultural diseases?

Currency

Is the resource up-to-date? Does it consider the latest research in your field? Some disciplines move more quickly than others.

Reliability

Is the resource from a reliable source? Can you find out who the author is, what their qualifications are and with whom they are affiliated? Are they a noted professor in the field or someone who considers themselves a professional because they read a Wikipedia article? If it is a journal article, is it from a reputable, peer-reviewed journal?

Accuracy

Is the resource accurate and precise? Is the information contained therein properly referenced? If it is original research, is there evidence that the research actually took place?

5. Manage and organise your information

Keep a record of all the resources you have used, including books, articles, print outs and photocopies. Note the full source on your photocopies in order to save substantial time when writing your assignment and reference list.

Consider using reference management software like EndNote, Zotero or Mendeley.

6. Cite your references

It is crucial to use correct referencing when writing. In academic writing, you are expected to acknowledge the work of others, demonstrate the body of knowledge on which you have based your work, and enable other researchers to trace your sources.

Incomplete or incorrect referencing may cause you to unwittingly claim authorship or ideas or statements that are not your own. Plagiarism is an academic offense and is taken very seriously at Murdoch University.

The Library has produced a number of guides to referencing using the different styles employed at Murdoch.