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Research Skills Tutorial: 1. Getting Started

Intended to help you develop the skills required to complete research assignments
The first step towards completing a research assignment is to make sure you understand what you're expected to do! This section of the tutorial is intended to help you understand your assignment description, but you should also communicate directly with your instructor if you are unclear about any assignment expectations.

Managing Your Time

It's a good idea to create a week by week plan for yourself with goals that outline how you will complete an assignment on time. Try these online tools to help you complete your research and writing on time:

The words which tell you what the assignment should be about are called content words.

Content words tell you what you are to focus on. For example, the content words for the following topic are in bold:

In recent years, social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, have had an influence not only on how people connect with friends but also on how much personal information is widely available on the Internet. This personal information is often hard to erase, and has been described as leaving a permanent "digital footprint" or "digital tattoo." For your assignment, discuss whether individuals having a digital tattoo has a more negative or positive impact on society.

Instruction words in an assignment description tell you how to write your assignment. For example, you may be asked to discuss, evaluate, analyse, or compare and each of these instruction words tells you to write a different kind of paper.

Instruction Word What it means
Analyse Examine a topic in close detail.
Comment on Idenfity and write about the main features of a topic. Unless told to do otherwise, you are normally expected to base your argument on external sources and what you have learned in lectures, rather than personal opinions that are not established in research.
Compare Show how things are similar. Comment on the significance of similarities.
Contrast Show are things are different, point out differences. Comment on the significance of dissimilarities. 
Critically evaluate Look at arguments from both sides of a topic and assess the strength of each argument. Based on research, explain which side you think has the stronger argument. 
Discuss Similar to critically evaluate. Provide evidence for and against a topic and make a judgement. 
Summarise or Outline Provide a broad summary of a topic. Focus on the most important points, rather than smaller details. 
To what extent Consider how much something is true or contributes to a particular outcome.