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Effectively Researching for University

When you actually get round to it!

When you're at university, you can sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown at you in lectures. You'll be taking different classes, some lecturers will cover several important areas all in one sitting and then they will suggest the "further reading!" Some scholarly texts can be a little daunting at first to read and its hard to know where to even start when researching a lecture, so here are a few tips from a fellow student.

Firstly, know what you want to research and break it down into sections. For example, I had a lecture on the Peripheral Nervous System and it covered a lot of areas. So I broke it down into manageable sections like the parasympathetic nerves and the sympathetic nerves. Then I tackled the anatomy of the nerves and then how they send nerve impulses and what these consist of. Breaking the lecture into sections can help you focus and organise your learning and can help break down something daunting into manageable chunks.

Secondly use the resources given to you. In university we had a computer search engine that would find recommended books or journals based on key words you typed in. So use key words from the sections you just formulated from the lecture and find books that include your required information. Of course look up the recommended texts that your lecturer suggested as a starting point. They are obviously referring you to it for a reason.

Now, the best source of information is the primary source. What I mean by this is an experimental study on your required area or a report from a key figure in your area of research. This is also a way to really delve into specific areas of your lecture and get lots of information to expand on your different sections. It is also the most reliable source of information. These kind of articles are probably best found online on your university's library site.

When researching however, avoid Wikipedia and websites that are either selling something or have an obvious one sided view of the topic. You want an unbiased, reliable source. If you do use Wikipedia, always fact check it. It will often cite the original sources for the information, so go to these.

When you are researching, always check the date of publication. If you are reading a study that was done 10 years ago, the information is probably out of date by now and there are probably newer advances on the research. If trying to find out about current research, don't go further back than one year. It's perfectly fine to use older studies as background information and to help understand how research has progressed, but always remember how quickly science advances every day and keep your research up to date.

It's easy to get carried away when researching as well. You may look up one section of a lecture and notice there are loads of different studies, publications and information about it. You could sometimes write a whole essay on just one section of a topic. But don't distract yourself and fall down the rabbit hole. Get enough information so that you understand it, have extra background knowledge and can still relate it all to the other areas covered in the lecture. Don't bog yourself down with basically learning another subject.

Finally whether you're researching alone or in a group, get interested in what you're reading. Note down additional, expanding information on what you covered in the lecture. Flesh it out as much as you can with research studies. But don't get too carried away, further reading can really help you understand a subject but remember, you're going to have to recall all this in an exam!

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