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COM120 Research Skills Guide: Identify

Identifying what you need to do

One of the first things to do when you start your assignments is to carefully read your Subject Outline, as well as all of the information your lecturer has given you about your assessment. Make sure you have a very clear understanding of what you're being asked to do. If you're unsure, ask.

Your assessment will involve:

  • Choosing a topic and developing a claim, to make into an argumentative essay
  • Gathering background information 
  • Finding more specific sources to support your argument.

Your lecturer will help you choose a topic and develop a claim. This library guide will help you find information, and evaluate what you've found to make sure it's appropriate to use in an academic context.

Finding background information

Finding background information on your chosen topic before you pick a claim might seem like doing more work, when you could just jump straight into in-depth research, but it actually provides you with important context that can make the rest of your research project more efficient.  

There are a number of places to find background information:

  • Reference resources like encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • Reliable websites (from informed or authoritative sources; see the Evaluate tab for how to check)
  • Books, including manuals and textbooks
  • Some types of news articles, including reviews, feature articles and explainers.

While you shouldn't use Wikipedia as a source in an academic paper, it can be a fairly reliable source for background information. Citations in Wikipedia articles can sometimes lead you to other good sources, especially on contemporary topics. 

Taming your research question

This video doesn't talk about argumentative questions in particular, but it may still be useful for you as you start to think about topics.