Library Website: Research & Referencing - How Do I Start My Research?

 How do I start my research?

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Starting a research assessment can be daunting, but with careful planning and organisation, it can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Here are some steps you can follow to get started:

1. Understand your topic: 

  • Make sure you understand the research question or topic by underlining or highlighting any keywords. These will become your search terms when you search the library catalogue and databases. Look up the meaning of any words you may be unfamiliar with. 
  • Do some background research for information about key dates, terms, people, and themes. Research the topic in textbooks, websites, or watch a documentary. Wikipedia may even be useful at this stage as it provides an overview of the topic. Remember not to cite Wikipedia directly, however, as it is not a reliable verifiable source of information. Instead, refer to the resources cited in the Wikipedia article.

2. Decide what type/s of information you will need: 

  • Historical or Current: In general, current, up-to-date information is best; unless you are researching how a situation or information has changed/evolved over time. When looking for current information, try looking at books published less than 5 years ago, articles published 2 years ago, and websites updated within the last 12 months. 
  • Fact or Opinion: You will need factual information if you are looking for statistics, data, research, or evidence-based information. If your research is on people's personal experiences, case studies, or the discussion/debate around a topic, you will need opinion-based information instead. 
  • Primary or Secondary Sources: Resources can be broadly classified into these two categories. Primary sources are original sources of information created at the time of the event or period being studied. Examples of primary sources include original documents, artifacts, photographs, letters, diaries, speeches, and audio or video recordings. Secondary sources are sources of information that describe, interpret, or analyse primary sources. Secondary sources include books, articles, textbooks, and other publications that interpret or analyse primary sources. Both primary and secondary sources can be valuable in research, but primary sources are generally considered to be more reliable and authoritative because they provide first-hand accounts of events or experiences. 

3. Determine where you are going to find the information: 

  • The table below outlines some common types of information, and the sources that are likely to include them. Many sources contain different types of information, so one resource may meet several of your information needs.

Information Required

Possible Sources


  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Government publications
  • Journal articles

 Case studies & personal experience

  • Documentaries
  • Blogs
  • Autobiographies/biographies
  • Personal communication
  • Podcasts

 Current information

  • Websites
  • Newspapers
  • Journal articles
  • Government publications
  • Podcasts

 Expert research & evidence

  • Journal articles
  • Books

 Opinions/Points of view

  • Newspapers
  • Websites
  • Personal communication
  • Radio broadcasts
  • Podcasts
  • Interviews



Wikipedia can be a useful place to begin your research. While it is not a reliable source on its own, it can help you gain a better understanding of your topic, decide on a sub-topic for further research, and guide you towards more reliable sources of information. Any reliable sources of information on a Wikipedia page can be found at the very bottom of the page in 'Notes' and 'External Links'. 

The following video is a short guide on how to use Wikipedia for further academic research. 

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Click on the following images to widen your understand using our Learning Lounge modules. 

How do I start my research?                              

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