Research, reading & note-taking


The following guide has been created for you by the Student Learning Advisory Service. For more detailed guidance and to speak to one of our advisers, please book an appointment or join one of our workshops. Alternatively, have a look at our SkillBuilder skills videos.

What is research? (basic definition)

Research is nothing more complicated than ‘finding out’ about a particular topic of interest. Most people are ‘natural researchers’ as they track down relevant information.

In Higher Education, ‘research’ has come to be associated with finding out ‘new knowledge’ - pushing the frontiers of understanding. At undergraduate level this means simply a fresh understanding of the topic.

You carry out research every time you prepare an essay or assignment. However, you might well also have to complete a longer dissertation, often in the final year before graduation. The purpose of this is threefold: to help you consolidate your learning; to give you a chance to use your academic skills to explore a topic of your choosing; and to prepare the ground for later postgraduate work by getting you to extend your existing research skills.

What is research (formal definition)

Research is a systematic process of discovery and inquiry. It involves finding, documenting, analysing and evaluating critical information as well as collating, analysing and evaluating data. Research is carried out to:

  • To increase knowledge
  • To contribute to new knowledge
  • To evaluate bodies of knowledge, viewpoints, the validity of a hypothesis or theories.
  • To generate questions for further inquiries.
  • To evaluate and develop practices.

Using research

For guidance on how to use research for specific assignments and to speak to one of our advisers, either book an appointment or attend a workshop.

The guides on the following pages give both reading and note-making tips and strategies, both are key to undertaking effective research.    

Getting started

After reading and understanding your assignment brief, research usually starts with the library. Visit the online library resource guide for subject guidance and tips.  

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