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Research Essentials

Level up your researching, reading and writing skills with these essential tips

Once you know what you are looking for, you need to pick the best search strategy for that type of resource. Search strategies depend on:

  • the type of resource you are looking for

  • the area of knowledge (e.g. looking for scientific findings is a different process to looking through old newspapers) 

The process of finding sources can often expose you to new terms and concepts that you can use in your searches.  Don't worry if you don't get exactly the results you want in your first search - repeating searches with different terms is a normal part of academic research. 

This section will cover: 

   Tips on how to improve your search experience

   Finding books

   Finding journal articles

   Finding dictionaries and encyclopedias, also known as reference material

Books, journal articles and reference material are common resources used in research, and may be found in hardcopy or available digitally online.

Your search options


Learn about the different search tools that you can use to get started in the video below (1:52):


Searching effectively

Thoroughly understanding your assessment task will help you search for resources more effectively.

The two videos below step you through the process of breaking down your research topic into keywords and show you the different ways you can track down related information sources by using advanced search features:




Templates for your search plan


Ready to plot your ideas in a search plan? Download the template Word documents below to get started:


Finding books and eBooks

Use your keywords to search the Library catalogue for books and ebooks.


Ebooks are available 24/7. Use the Connect to ebook link to access the ebook.

  • Log in with your student username and password to access


Watch this short video (3:21) for a demonstration on how to use the Library Catalogue:


Finding journal articles

Journal articles are an excellent source of current and  in-depth information on academic topics. 

  • Journals are usually published periodically in volumes and issues (monthly, quarterly or annually). A large number of journals are also published online and you can find them using the Library's databases, Discovery, and Google Scholar (more on these resources later).

  • Journals usually have a theme or specialty and articles in them are on topics surrounding that theme. For example, the Journal of Australian Political Science contains articles that relate to Australian politics.

Knowing how to find relevant journal articles is a critical research skill and one that you will be relying on more and more as you progress through your degree.  Use the tools and tips below to find journal articles and other periodicals.


Use Discovery to locate journal articles

  • The search box on the library homepage connects to the University of Melbourne's main search tool, Discovery.

  • Enter your search terms. A results list will display and a number of options to limit your search.

  • Limit to "peer reviewed journals" to restrict the search results to journal articles..

  • Try using the advanced search options to refine your search further.

  • Click on FindIt@Unimelb to be directed to our holdings

  • If you have the exact article title, putting it in double quotations in the search field which will find the exact article.

Get set up and connected with these three great search tools

Search smarter

Are you expected to describe, compare, evaluate, or discuss? Should you focus on the texts or information you've been given in class, or will you are you expected to find other sources? What are the word limit, due-date and format restrictions?

  • Use AND, OR, NOT to link your keywords. Watch this video for a quick overview of how to use

  • Double quotations around phrases will search for the correct combination of words e.g. "climate change"

  • Truncation (*) will search variations for a word (e.g. lead* searches for leaders, leading, leadership

  • Wildcard (?) will searches variations of a character (e.g. organi?ational searches for organisational and organizational)

  • Look at related material and database suggestions: Check the bibliography for related materials. Some databases also have a cited by function where you can see similar relevant articles

Use a Library Guide

The best way to locate databases for your area of study is to look at our Library Guides by subject area


 Finding dictionaries and encyclopedias                   

Dictionaries and encyclopedias are also known as reference material or reference sources. Many are now available online with regular updates. They offer:

  • Concise overviews of a broad range of topics
  • Definitions of terms and concepts
  • Scholarly references and bibliographies


Find high-quality reference materials for your discipline area with our Library Guides.


Are you looking for different resources that aren't mentioned here?

Browse our General Guides for tips on finding specialised resources like newspapers, theses, images and more...