Skip to Main Content

Research Essentials

Level up your researching, reading and writing skills with these essential tips and navigate your first university assignments. Find relevant support and resources from the Library and Academic Skills.

Prepare to search

Identify your search terms

After analysing your assignment task, you should have a clear idea of concepts and limits of your topic. These will be your keywords for searching. Prepare for your search by:

  • listing your concepts and keywords
  • thinking of alternative terms for these keywords to broaden your results
  • you may also want to note down things you want to exclude

New to your topic?

Develop a general understanding before you deep dive into niche aspects of a topic 

  • Use encyclopedias and other reference materials to get a concise, up-to-date overview of a topic. They will also lead you straight to the most important or informative publications in the field.
  • Look for a 'Research Starter' result at the top of a Discovery search - these entries are from encyclopedias.
  • Check your subject library guides for more recommendations.

Search the library

Know where to search

The library collection includes access to thousands of online databases and physical collections. It is usually best to search in more than one place, as no one database or platform has access to all resources on your topic.

  • Use Discovery to start your search and find scholarly journal articles. Discovery searches across many of the online databases and physical library collections, but not all of them.
  • Use the library catalogue to focus on finding books and ebooks on your topic. 
  • Consult Specialist library guides to find further databases and key sources of information for your study area.

This video describes your search options when getting started at the University of Melbourne:



Build a search strategy

Library databases, including Discovery and the library catalogue, are a little different to general search engines. They give you very precise results based on exactly what you asked for. To get better results, try these top tips:

  • only use your keywords to search, not full sentences
  • use quotes to find exact phrases or titles e.g. "climate change"
  • use the filters to limit your results e.g. peer reviewed, date, source type

This video shows you how to combine your search terms in databases to get better results:



Broaden or narrow your search

You may need to try different combinations of search terms or broaden or narrow your topic to get the best results as you search and review your results. This is a normal part of the search process. 

Not getting the results you need?

Too many results? 

  • use filters to limit the results by date, or source type
  • use boolean searching or advanced search options to make your search more precise

Can't find anything?

  • try a general source like an encyclopedia for recommended sources
  • broaden your search by adding alternative keywords

Results aren't relevant?

  • choose a subject specific database that is recommended for your area of study
  • consider if you need to exclude any terms from your results


Find scholarly, peer reviewed information

Here are some top tips for finding scholarly, peer reviewed resources for your assignment. 

  • Many scholarly databases, like Discovery, have filter options to limit your search results to peer reviewed articles. 

Screenshot showing the peer reviewed filter button located underneath the Discovery search bar

What is scholarly peer reviewed information? 

Scholarly information:

  • is evidence-based and well-researched
  • has undergone rigorous review by experts in that respective field
  • can include academic journal articles, some books and some other forms of information

Peer reviewed articles:

  • have been reviewed by other academics ("peers") in the same field prior to publication
  • are considered to be of a high standard
  • are published in peer reviewed journals

Use specialist library guides

Search specific databases 

Our general search tools will uncover a lot, but did you know we also have hundreds of specialist databases and resources for your specific area of study?

Subject Area Library Guides are written and maintained by specialist librarians who are knowledgeable about your subjects, and will give you specific recommendations about where to search. Choose 'Guides by Subject Area' to find a guide for your area of study.

Find a library guide 


This video shows five advanced search techniques for getting more out of library databases: 



Find different resource types

Your assignment might require to find news, statistics, images or other resources types. Use our specialist library guides to help you find other specific types of resources:



Save time with library search tools

These tools will provide direct access to full text online resources, whether you're on or off campus, and speed up your research by making resources easier to access. 

Find out more about each tool in the gallery below. You don't need to limit yourself to one, you can install and use them all.

Lean Library logo shows the letters LL in a circleLean Library

Lean Library is a browser extension that identify sites, articles, journals and books we have University access to, so you can get seamless access to paid resources when you're browsing.

The Lean Library browser extension works with your UniMelb authentication, no separate user account is needed.

Get Lean Library

LibKey Nomad

LibKey Nomad is a browser extension the puts direct PDF download links into research platforms and other sites, for example, in Wikipedia reference lists.

The LibKey Nomad browser extension works with your UniMelb authentication, no separate user account is needed

Get LibKey Nomad


BrowZine is an app to follow your favorite journals and get notifications on new issues and published articles. BrowZine can be installed from the Apple, Google Play and Amazon App Stores.

It allows you to browse titles by subject to easily find journals of interest and create a personal bookshelf of your favourite journals.

Get Browzine


EndNote click

EndNote Click, formally known as Kopernio, saves you time by putting PDF Download links onto many search result pages and publisher websites. It helps you save papers to your reference management software or to Dropbox.

Get EndNote Click


Google Scholar library link

You can set your Google Scholar preferences so that links to any Library subscription material shows a 'Find It @ Unimelb' link next to search results, taking you through to a full text version via the Library. This can be a convenient alternative if you don't want install browser add ons like Lean Library or LibKey Nomad.

  1. Go to Google Scholar settings
  2. Click the Library links option in the left menu
  3. Enter: 'University of Melbourne Library' in the search box and click the search button.
  4. Tick the checkbox next to the option: 'University of Melbourne Library - Find It @ Unimelb'.
  5. Click the 'Save' button.

Keep track of results

It's essential to keep track of what you have found when you are searching so that you:

  • Know what you have already found
  • Manage your reading and note-taking
  • Accurately reference the sources you use in your assessment

There are lots of ways to keep records of your searches. Most databases allow you to save searches, and to email or print search results. See the referencing section of this guide for more resources.