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ISL181/481 Research Skills Guide: Identify

Identifying what you need

Before you start each piece of assessment, it's important to identify exactly what you need to do. 

If you are confused or unsure about the assessment topic, check the Subject Outline, ask your lecturer, or post a question on the discussion boards in your Subject Site. 

Most of your assessment in this subject requires you to find different types of resources and critically evaluate them. The Find section of this guide will help you to search for items, and the Evaluate section will give you some ideas when you begin to evaluate. 

First submission (ISL181)

The first submission of your essay is a great chance to practice your research skills and set up a good first response to your essay topic. Make sure to read the task in the Subject Outline very carefully, to make sure you know exactly what you need to do. 

Before you choose your topic, it's a good idea to choose a few topics you're interested in and search for background information on the internet. This doesn't have to be in-depth searching. Browsing for some context about the topic before you commit to a specific topic is always a good idea, to ensure you start with a good idea what you'll be writing about. It can also help you make sure you're choosing a topic you're interested in. 

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 Using Internet Resources page for tips on evaluating websites)
  • 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. 

Then, use the information on the Topic Analysis page to start developing your keywords and search strategies.

Annotated bibliography (ISL481)

An annotated bibliography is a bibliography where references are given annotations or notes. In ISL481, you are asked to select your essay topic then collect 10 relevant, recent scholarly sources of specific types. Be sure to read the task in the Subject Outline carefully.

Top Tips:

  • Choose high quality scholarly sources, because these are a better foundation to build your research paper on
  • Think carefully about why you're choosing these sources, and what benefit they can bring to your research paper. Part of an annotated bibliography is justifying your choice of resources, so choosing high quality sources that are very relevant to your research topic will make your annotated bibliography easier to write.
  • There are many online resources that can help you to write an annotated bibliography, including this one from UNSW and this one from QUT.
  • If you're having trouble deciding what to write, visit the Evaluate page on this guide and answer the questions about each of your sources; this could help you start to justify why you picked each source.
  • Pay attention to your referencing, for both the in-text citations and reference list.

Writing an essay

The Use page in this guide has books about how to write a good essay.

If you're having trouble getting started with your essay, Charles Sturt's Academic Skills Advisers can help you with drafts and give you advice on your writing. They also have a lot of self-help resources and workshops.

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