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Independent College: Research Skills

Resources for planning and reflecting

Library Research Skills

The library is a research centre where resources can be accessed at the library or online. This guide answers the questions: How do I plan and conduct research? What is library research? 

Library research involves accessing and searching the library collection, books/eBooks and databases. It involves developing a search strategy and using keywords to seek relevant information sources. This research can of course include searching for data online using Google, Yahoo etc.. However, there is a special note below on this topic, Online Searching

For detailed research planning assistance, book an appointment with the librarian at Please include your research topic and all research you have done so far. 

Research Blueprint and Research Proposal

It can be challenging to begin any research project. Making a research plan helps break down the research process. Use the below document to get you started! 

Remember that brainstorming is about identifying topics and potential subjects/concepts, including keywords. The goal is to make your information search strategy more effective and topic-specific, moving from a broad to a narrow topic.

Some students may ultimately have to compose a research proposal and Scribbr have a  step-by-step process for this. Always remember to consult with your lecturer about the required structure. 

The Research Process - From Beginning to End

Online Searching

You should be wary of  the quality of research information you find using Google (or any other search engine).

Always check your search results critically! There are many questions to ask when you find an information source online (Is it current? Who is the author? Can I trust the source? Is it relevant to my needs?)

Google for example, may be very convenient to begin an information search but they only enable you to retrieve a very small part of all existing academic literature, because they do not have access to the databases that are used by libraries like Independent College, i.e., EBSCO

However, sometimes a Google search can be a good way to start your information quest. You may sometimes come across relevant references using Google, or Wikipedia. This can help lead you to more academic sources. 

An alternative to Google. Bing, Yahoo, or Microsoft Edge, is Google Scholar which is much more useful for finding scholarly publications than the regular Google. However, you will get much better results by searching in the databases the Library offers. 


Have you found a useful article but are blocked by a paywall??  Watch the below video and follow the tips!

A Research Strategy & Tips


Use the  above rubric to assist you in planning research

Topics: What are your topics of interest? Can you be specific? You should be moving from a broad area of interest to a more specific focus in terms of your research questions. E.g., the environment > The environment and renewable energy

Related Concepts: Identify key concepts in relation to your research topic, making it easier to identify what information you need and helping you start planning a strategy. e.g., The environment and renewable energy > wind energy and wind farms, environmental impact etc.

Keywords: You can then identify a combination of keywords using BOOLEAN (AND, OR, NOT), i.e., Renewable energy AND local communities. Wind farms AND impact NOT support, renewable OR green energy, "wind farm community benefits" etc.

Sources: Choose a trusted source - the library databases are always a good start! Including websites with a trusted domain, for example: .ie, .gov, .org, .edu

Search: Conduct a search narrowing your search by using limiters or by setting your own search parameters. Some examples are listed below:

  • Date range (i.e., everything since 1970, last ten years, 2021 only)
  • Location (ie., China, the UK, Australia) 
  • Demographics (group)
  • Source type (Books, eBooks, journal articles, media publication etc.)

Evaluate: using CRAAP: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. Are your sources fit for purpose?