Kaitlin: How to research like a pro

USQ blogger KaitlinKaitlin is studying a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business, majoring in public relations and marketing. Some of her favourite things are pizza, Shakespeare, the band Ball Park Music and the TV show Friends.

Grade 12 was honestly one of the hardest years of my life. I definitely didn’t see it at the time, but I’m now grateful for the 30-page history research logs we had to complete, the never ending bibliographies and even Mrs A’s spiel about ‘using a variety of sources’ every class… all of that stress and effort prepared me for my future years of study at university. I’m not being sarcastic, I promise. The research skills I learned during high school were invaluable and have really come in handy during assignment and exam preparation. As uni students we’re all in this together, so I wanted to pass on the research tips and tricks I picked up in school that just might help you out with your next assessment piece.

1. Clarify the topic/task

I found that research is always easier if you’re 100% confident in what you’re trying to find and what you’re going to do with that information once you’ve got it. If you’ve read both your task and criteria sheets and still aren’t sure what to do, check your course forums and review your course materials for further clues. If you’re still confused you can either contact your lecturer, or ask one of the friendly Library staff to help you interpret the task. Pro researchers always have a clear objective, so make sure you know exactly what you need to find before you start your search.

2. Use a variety of sources

Mrs A was right, using a variety of sources is so important when researching for your assignment! Your course readings are a good place to start, but it’s also essential to head to the Library either on-campus or online. Yes, World Book and databases like EBSCO may have been useful in high school, but there are hundreds of other resources listed on the Library website that can help you get in-depth information from scholars around the world. Don’t forget about actual books (remember those ink-on-paper things?)! Online students can even have portions photocopied and emailed or entire books sent to them for free! It’s also a good idea to check your marking criteria sheet, as you’ll often find that a portion of your marks are allocated to the sources that you use and you’ll usually be asked to go beyond your course materials.

3. Make sure they’re quality sources!

Your lecturers will be expecting you to use reliable, high quality sources so use the library search function to conduct your research (it’s actually really similar to the Google search style you’re used to). If you do find yourself turning to Google, you’ll need to use a critical academic eye to evaluate your search results. Check when the website was published, who the author is, whether the information or author is biased and whether or not it corroborates with other information you’ve gathered on the topic. If you’re not sure how to evaluate your sources, check out this guide on taste testing your assignment resources.

4. Referencing, ugh!

Bibliographies were my absolute least favourite thing at school. I would always leave them until the last minute. If there’s one thing you take away from this blog, let it be this; you need to keep track of your referencing as you go. The library staff are a great source of wisdom when it comes to academic referencing and as a USQ student you even have access to Endnote software, for free! Whether you do it yourself or use snazzy software, just make sure you’re doing your referencing as you go!


Grade 12 was a tough year but all that hard work helped me to develop some pretty great research skills which I hope can also help you in your uni studies!

If you have any questions about researching or referencing, be sure to ask one of the friendly Library staff. They’re so helpful and often have some great ideas that you might not have thought of.


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