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Help with Research

Read your assignment question   

What do you need to do? Look for this information

  • Due Date and time
  • Length - Is there a word limit for the assignment?
  • Format - do you need to create an essay, poster, report, class presentation?
  • Audience - Lecturer, class, individual (e.g. write a letter to a friend and explain...)
  • Are there any special requirements such as statistics, illustrations or resources which you need to include or create?

Check with your lecturer early on if you are unsure of what you are expected to do.

Select the topic you will be writing on. Plan your research.

  • What do you already know about the topic?
  • What do you need to know?
  • Make a list or draw a mind map of the key words or phrases which describe the topic. Your text books and assigned readings are a good place to start to find these. Include synonyms in the list. These will be the key words you use in your search for information.

It may be helpful to produce a broad outline of your assignment by organising the concepts you have mind mapped into:

  • An introduction - a brief background and relevance of the topic to your subject
  • Body of the essay - through discussion of the main points
  • Conclusion - summary of the main points and your interpretation

You may want to write a timeline for gathering and writing your assignment. You could try the online planning calculator at: 

For help with time management, mind mapping and other study skills check out our Study Toolbox or make an appointment with a Learning Advisor.

Identify your sources of information   

Gather information from:

  • Your text books and assigned readings
  • The Library Subject Guide for your subject
  • Academic journals
  • Databases
  • Websites
  • e-books

Use the key words you have listed as search terms in Search Rapua, the library catalogue, and in the library's databases and e-book collections as well as internet search engines.

Review  and revise your search terms if you find too much or too little information.

If you find one article or book which is very good check the references/bibliography at the end for other material which may be useful.

If you need help searching the catalogue or databases make an appointment with your Subject Librarian





Collect, evaluate and record  

Focus on your topic and the structure of your assignment when selecting the information you will use from the sources you have found. Use a range of sources - some books, some journal articles and website information when appropriate.

Read critically. Evaluate the information you have found according to these criteria:

Relevance - is the content relevant to your topic and perspective?

Substance - Is the information too complex or too basic for your purpose?

Currency - is the information up-to-date, or appropriate to your research?

Authority - is the information provided by a person or organisation with expertise in this topic? This is especially important to consider for information taken from websites.

Accuracy - do details seem to be correct? Check important details in a second, unrelated source.

Bias - why has it been written? Is it written from fact or opinion? Are the facts correctly interpreted? Is a reference list included?

It is particularly important to evaluate information you collect from websites.

Take notes as you go. Make sure to :

  • Record the author, date, title and publisher of all sources you decide to use.
  • If you are copying any part to use as a direct quote also record the page number.
  • Note down useful concepts or ideas from each source and summarise these in your own words.

You may wish to use citation software such as Zotero or Mendeley to record your sources.

Ask a Subject Librarian if you need help finding or selecting information or recording the details of your sources.



Use your research to write your essay or prepare your presentation

Review your notes to see if you have collected information to cover all the topics you need to discuss. Gather more information if necessary.

When preparing a written assignment:

  • Use your own words for most of the essay, incorporating concepts from the sources of information you have selected
  • Use in-text citations to acknowledge the ideas of the authors
  • Include quotations sparingly, and only when they support your point
  • Add a reference list of the sources you used
  • Edit your assignment to make sure that your ideas are expressed logically and clearly
  • Proofread your assignment to check spelling, punctuation and the consistency of your presentation

Make an appointment with a Learning Advisor for help with academic writing.

Most schools at MIT require students to use the APA (American Psychological Association) referencing style for citing, quoting and referencing sources. Some subjects in the School of Engineering may require you to use the IEEE system. The library website has resources to guide you with both these styles..

See your Subject Librarian for help with APA or IEEE referencing.

When preparing a presentation:

  • Write a script, creating an introduction, main body and conclusion
  • Select key points for PowerPoint slides
  • Prepare note cards to keep yourself on track
  • Practice your presentation

Check your assignment sheet to make sure you have met all the requirements.

Contact staff in the library for more help with your research or you can use the Chat Now link on the home page of the library website.


Need Help?

If you need help identifying your keywords, locating resources or evaluating the resources you have found contact a Subject Librarian

You can make an appointment for 1:1 help or we can organise a group session if others in your class would like to join in.

Appointments can be face to face or online.

You can find a Make an appointment tile on the Help from our Staff page.



question research understanding solution

Selecting and Using Keywords

What is a credible information source?