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Beginning Research: Identify

Help for beginning research on your essay, paper or thesis.

Quick Tips


  • Understand and use your reading List to find useful books etc.
  • Identify the most relevant types of resources for your task - journals, websites, books, encyclopedias, government reports etc
  • Use the subject guides curated by our liasion librarians to identify and access the search tools which will retreive the best results for your discipline area
  • Use the Catalogue to find resources and your search results to identify more terms and items.

Selecting search tools relevant to your course

Using Your Reading List

Your reading list is a valuable source of information - use it as a starting place. You can use the reference lists in journal articles, and the bibliographies in books to find other information.

To get the most out of your reading list, you will need to understand the citations - are you looking at the details of a book, chapter in a book, an edited book, journal article, or a web page?

Chapter in a Book

Edited Book

Journal Article

Web Page

Identifying resources using the Catalogue

A good way to begin your research is to find background information in reference sources, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Dictionaries help you understand what words mean.

Thesaurii help you find words that have the same meaning.

You can access (you will need to login with your Unimelb username and password)

The guides for your subject area will also list specialist reference sources.

The Library has a large collection of online dictionaries and online encyclopedias available through the library catalogue.

 To find what is available in your discipline, you could try the following keyword search strategy (substituting the relevant discipline for the engineering example here):

You can also use Wikipedia for background, but be aware that it is not an appropriate source to cite in your academic research. Start by searching the library catalogue and reference sources

Need suggestions for creating a search? Have a look at the Plan section of this guide.

Finding more resources about the same subject

  • Looking at your initial search results and reflecting on the value of the results that you have retrieved. You can then use this information to refine your search strategy.
  • Searching the subject headings that have been applied to relevant books.

Initial Searches

Once you have done a search, you can use the catalogue records of some of the relevant items to identify more keywords, and more, related items.