Heron Publishing: All About Reading

Research Skills

How can you improve your research skills? Here are some practical suggestions to help you find information quickly, whether you are looking for one fact, or planning a major speech or paper. Decide what help you need, and click on that question to find research tips that will work for you. Libraries often have too little or too much information. What strategies can you use to solve this difficulty?

If you need help to find more information, click here.

If you need help to narrow your topic, click here.

If you need help to use the Internet, click here.

If you need help to paraphrase, click here.

If you need help to organize your paper or speech, click here.


If you need help to find more information:

  • Broaden you research and add more background information, a longer time period or more details about the persons or things involved.
  • Use an encyclopedia article as a structure for your search. Look for other aspects of your topic that are more promising. Also, the encyclopedia will have a good bibliography.
  • Modify your topic to include conflicting opinions about the issue you are investigating.
  • Use a variety of resources, including books, magazines and the Internet as well as encyclopedias and dictionaries. Always write out your bibliography to get credit for all your work.
  • If you are desperate, show your teacher what you have found and ask to change topics.

[Return to top]

If the library has too much information for you:

  • Narrow your topic. Cover less background information, use a shorter time period, or focus on just one aspect of the persons or things involved.
  • Check your encyclopedia article to decide what is the single most important thing you can focus on for your paper or speech.
  • Reread your notes to eliminate unnecessary details or distracting side issues.
  • Rephrase your topic to match the new topic.

[Return to top]

Use the Internet effectively and honestly

  • Ask your librarian for help in using the computer, and the search tools.
  • Work from an outline for greatest efficiency.
  • Be sure to make a print copy of the web page, add the web address, and highlight the sections you use with a yellow highlighter pen. Then paraphrase, or put the information in your own words, so you won't be accused of plagiarizing. (LINK to Note Taking)
  • Put the information you find in your own words. Avoid quotations unless you are writing about lines in poems or literature. Use footnotes so someone else can find that interesting bit of information and read more about it.

[Return to top]

Transfer your notes to your computer so you have them handy when you start writing your paper or speech. Remember to keep your footnotes with your information so you won't lose your references!