How to conduct academic research

At university, conducting effective academic research as well as knowing what sources to select and how to write in an academic way are very important. With the vast amount of resources on the internet and in university libraries the choice can seem overwhelming. This results in students frequently struggling to find the specific information they need. There are also some key things to avoid, such as plagiarism; this is heavily penalised whether it be deliberate or accidental. Here are our top tips on how to conduct effective academic research:

Draw on a wide variety of sources

In order to construct a comprehensive bibliography it is important to use a variety of sources both primary and secondary. There is usually a separate marking criteria for bibliographies. It is important to not overlook this as it is frequently an area where students needlessly loose marks. It is also useful to diversify your sources of information: quoting from articles, books, videos or audio files. Comparing primary and secondary sources or those from different types of media is a very good way of showing the marker that you are a skilled researcher.

Use correct referencing

The content of your essays is the most important thing to worry about when writing essays. However, students often lose marks through failing to reference properly. This can be a real shame if you have spent time researching and evaluating your sources only to not reference them properly. Usually, your university will give you guidelines as to what reference style to use like Harvard or MHRA. Remember to read through your university’s guidelines before writing.

Use online and library resources effectively

It is important to know the layout of your university library early on. You will need to know where the published materials for your course are located and where you can find those works in high demand. Remember to return your books on time to avoid fines and make sure the resources are available for all. If you are using online resources, look at your university website as they often have partnerships with digital libraries such as JSTOR. These partnerships grant you free access to resources which is a huge benefit for research. Seek help from your library if you are unsure.

Proofread your work

Remember to proofread your work before you submit it. It is important to not only look for spelling mistakes, but also grammar mistakes. Do not rely on spell check to correct your work! Make sure your sentences are the correct length and that the text reads well. It is always a good idea to have a second pair of eyes to look at it afresh from a different point of view. There are also online proofreaders you can use such as Grammarly which can really help improve your academic writing. It is important to use the right register and tone especially when writing research essays for university. You want to appear as an expert in your chosen subject. Not only what you write but how you write can go a long way to giving off this impression.

Avoid plagiarism at all costs

Whatever you do don’t be tempted to plagiarise someone else’s work. Plagiarism comes in many different forms and universities use advanced plagiarism checkers such as Turnitin to detect it. If you are caught this can have severe repercussions not only for your assignment but also for your university career. Don’t be tempted to use work you have done for previous assignments as self plagiarism is heavily penalised. Plagiarism can also occur if you quote a source but fail to give a reference. Make sure every source you use has a reference and none slip through the cracks.

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