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Westcourt iCentre: Research Skills

Middle & Senior School Library Home

Where Do I Start?

Good quality research takes time. If you take short-cuts your research will be of a poorer quality and so will your work.

  1. Read and understand the task description. 
  2. Understand how your task will be marked by examining the assessment rubric.
  3. Check the sources required, eg. a mix of books and web resources? Peer-reviewed articles (in Ebsco database)?
  4. Identify keywords from your task topic for your search.
  5. Develop a search strategy* using your keywords.
  6. Use Boolean operators (and/or/not) to refine your searching.

The Research Process

Paraphrasing, Quoting and Summarising

Paraphrasing, Quoting and Summarising

Paraphrasing involves putting information from a source into your own words, without changing the meaning of the source you used. You must then acknowledge that source in your essay or report. An easy way to remember paraphrasing is to imagine you are telling your next door neighbour what you have just read in your own words.

Summarising involves putting the main idea(s) from a source into your own words, but including only the main point(s). You must then acknowledge the original source in your essay or report.

Quoting involves using a brief segment of a source, word for word, in your essay or report. You let the reader know you have quoted directly from the source by enclosing the text in inverted commas. You must acknowledge that source in your essay or report.

Rules of paraphrasing:                                                  

Don’t interject your own views            Do make sure you understand the original
Don’t change or distort the meaning or intent of the original text   Do use your own words and sentence structures
Don’t leave out significant information   Do identify the source
Don’t quote large sections that could be rephrased   Do enclosed quoted words and phrases in quotation marks
Don’t present paraphrased material as your own



Boolean Operators

What are Boolean operators? How can I use them to improve my searches?


Boolean is a set of commands that can be used in almost every search engine, database, or online catalogue.  The most popular Boolean commands are ANDOR, and NOT.  Other commands include parenthesestruncation, and phrases.

Narrow your search using AND

Using the Boolean command AND in your search tells the search engine to give you results that contain all of the words you have entered.  


media AND violence: only those results that contain both media and violence will appear in your search results list.

venn diagram of media AND violence

Expand your search using OR

Using Boolean command OR in your search tells the search engine to give you results that contain any of the words you have entered.


teenagers OR adolescents:  any results that contain either teenagers or adolescents will appear in your results list.

Venn diagram of teenagers OR violence

Narrow your results using NOT

Using Boolean command NOT in your search tells the search engine to give you results that contain the word(s) you entered except the word following NOT. 


Psychology NOT Developmental:  any results that contain the word "psychology" will appear in your results list except those results that also contain the word "developmental".

yield iconCapitalize your Boolean commands. Some databases only accept these operators when they are capitalized.


This video has been created by LaTrobe University Library. Although it addresses university students, it is just as relevant to us (although we are not always looking for peer-reviewed articles, but we are always looking for authoritative information.)

Pros and cons of Google search:

Pros of Google: Google is free and easy to use. Advanced Search allows you to refine your results.

Pros of Google Scholar: Google Scholar includes peer reviewed content, although some results are behind a paywall. Results include citations and references. 

Cons of Google: Google search results can be overwhelming and therefore confusing. You will have to evaluate the results for relevance and credibility. In addition, since Google benefits from advertising, be careful to recognise the ads which are at the top of the search results. You will have to evaluate your results.

Cons of Google Scholar: Not everything is freely accessible in full-text. 

Read more about Google Scholar search tips