How To Improve Your Student Research Skills

Whether you’re an advanced mathematics student or you’re on a creative writing Masters course; there is one skill which is crucial to your success in any discipline – the ability to learn and research independently. \r\n\r\nWe recently spoke about the relationship between technology and university studying in our recent article all about the different apps available for international students, but we believe it’s important to talk about other academic areas as well. Much of your academic development will actually take place on your own outside of the classroom, so mastering the art of research is ultimately what will determine your final grade.\r\n\r\nThis is especially true if you are a non-native student, as you also have to contend with the language barrier in order to achieve significant progress. So here are a few study tips for international students on how you can improve your research skills.\r\n\r\n

1.) Make a plan

\r\nWhen studying something you are passionate about it can be easy to lose time in random research sessions, so by timetabling the topics you need to learn you’ll ensure you give enough attention to every area of your research. Break this down into daily and weekly plans to maximise efficiency.\r\n\r\n

2.) Finalise your question

\r\nMost research is conducted in order to answer one simple question, so spend time figuring out exactly what your essay or project needs to answer. This will enable you to reduce the scope of your research and target only things which are relevant. By keeping the question in plain English you’ll also help others to understand what you require, meaning that when you request help from fellow students or academics, your needs will be clear and simple.\r\n\r\n

3.) Devise a system

\r\nWhen you know what you need to research and how you need to research it, the next step is to create a system of cataloguing the information you require. Target one aspect of your topic at a time and create some form of index to allow easy future reference. Also include a shorthand description of your findings, a link to the main research source, and any other notes or categories you feel will help you to use the information you have gathered.\r\n\r\n

4.) Get some help

\r\nFellow students and your course professors will often provide advice for international students regarding research suggestions, but there are also many resources available outside university too. Online message-boards for certain industries and subjects enable you to crowd-source opinions and answers, or alternatively you could inquire directly with experts in your field by researching their contact details. Not sure who is the expert in your field? Take a look at bibliographies in books and online papers – if they’re cited or quoted, try to speak with them.\r\n\r\n

5.) Looking Beyond Wikipedia

\r\nWikipedia is a fantastic resource to help you obtain a basic understanding of almost any idea, but once you’ve used it for this purpose you should always move on to more reputable sources. Most Wikipedia articles contain reference links at the bottom to research papers, articles and other sources, so for further reading this is where you should go.\r\n\r\n

6.) Learn how to ‘Google’

\r\nThis may seem simple, but there are actually many tips and tricks you can use within Google to help speed up and narrow down your research. This link offers a few hints on how to search only certain websites, how to omit undesired words or results, and how to accurately limit your search to certain dates and institutions. Google Books & Google Scholar also links to many research papers and freely available publications, and by learning how to Google effectively you’ll save lots of money on expensive membership to research websites. \r\n