hand with each finger showing a noteResearch Tools


“Information literacy is the ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to develop informed views and to engage fully with society”
Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.[ accessed 1/05/20]

Each step in the research process requires specific skills. The links on this page will take you to resources which may help you at each stage of the research process.

1. IDENTIFY your task:

Before you begin a research task, you need to know exactly what you are looking for. The best way to get started is to highlight all the keywords and make sure you know what they mean (in the context of your assignment). Think about what is the task / question / problem? What’s the purpose? What do you know so far? Try Mindmapping / listing keywords / brainstorming.

2. NEED to search:

Where do you need to search? What information sources are there? Who might know?
It’s not enough to just google your keywords and assume that the information you receive is accurate or even relevant. Sometimes the best information is not found on the internet but in a book or magazine.

  1. Softlink Oliver library catalogue https://canon-slade.oliverasp.co.uk/ for resources available in the library.
  2. A reliable encyclopaedia https://www.q-files.com/home/
  3. Complete Issues: https://www.completeissues.co.uk/login
  4. Issues Online: http://www.issuesonline.co.uk/subscription/login
  5. Newspapers for schools: http://newslibrary.newspapersforschools.co.uk
  6. Contact the library for details about username and passwords.

With a Bolton Libraries membership, access free online resources as well as eBooks and magazines



SEARCH Engines There are many search engines out there that you can use other than Google. Various sources estimate that only 10% of the information is indexed by search engines. The Search Engine List http://www.thesearchenginelist.com/ lists many types of search engines and internet indexing sites. Popular search engines are:

  1. http://www.sweetsearch.com/
  2. http://scholar.google.co.uk/
  3. Duck Duck Go
  4. Ask

3. FIND the resources

Select the best information for your task. Find, appraise and select the resources.
Read / skim / scan / make notes.
Don’t forget to make a note of all sources resources used.

Search tips:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Choose descriptive words.
  • Be as specific as you can.
  • Check your input for spelling mistakes and typos.
  • Use the advanced or help section.
  • Only use capitals for proper names.
  • Use the options to limit your search: UK only, images, English language.
  • Think how headings will be written on a page. Use individual words that are most likely to appear on the page. For example,
  • [headache ] instead of [my head hurts ].
  • Describe what you need with as few terms as possible. For example, [weather cancun] is likely to give better results than the
  • longer [weather report for cancun mexico].
  • Useful symbols (used by most search engines):
    • “ “ for words used together
    • + for a word that must be included (volcanoes +Asia)
    • to exclude a word (design –fashion)
    • finds words beginning with (comput* finds computing, computer, computers)

Other things to check:

You’ve found some books or other publications:

  • Check the publication dates. (Does it matter?)
  • Check authors – are they qualified?
  • Use the contents pages and indexes.
  • Do they have glossaries and bibliographies?
  • Are they well illustrated?


You’ve found some websites:

  • Remember a website can be uploaded by anyone.
  • What person or organisation is behind the web site?
  • Who produced it? Any contact details? Qualifications? An individual or an organisation?
  • What is the purpose of the site: to inform, sell, put a viewpoint, amuse, discuss?

Check for bias – are they just providing information or trying to sell or promote something?

  • How easy is it to use? Can you find the information you need?
  • How up-to-date is the site and information? Check when it was last updated.
  • Websites you can usually trust end in .ac.uk / .edu / .gov / .org.

Not sure about checking reliability and validity?
Have a look at this useful link:

4. ORGANISE the resources

Organise the information in a logical way that fits your task and sort it in a way which answers your question.


  • Don’t print the page straight off the internet.
  • Print some of the information, if necessary.
  • Copy and paste words and graphics into Word or another document.
  • Photocopy selectively.
  • Make notes straight from the screen or book. Write down your source of information.
  • Be aware of quoting, paraphrasing and summarising.


5. REPORT the information

Report and present the information in a way that suits your audience (teachers? class?).
Always write a bibliography.

The system used in school is the Harvard system of referencing and many universities also require this system when writing bibliographies and referencing within essays.


REMEMBER – List sources:

Record all your sources in a bibliography


Create a presentation:

You’ve had at least one experience of “Death by PowerPoint” where you got very bored while someone read out their badly-spelled and punctuated speech from slides full of distracting and irrelevant images. We all know what a bad PowerPoint is like, but sometimes we make them anyway.

You can avoid these problems by:

  1. Choosing ONE slide design, font and colour scheme that suits your topic and sticking to it
  2. Using the 3 X 5 rule (three lines of five words or five lines of three words) to write keywords and phrases instead of writing whole sentences
  3. Choosing images and symbols that represent the idea behind each slide – no random decorations

Student presentation tips


6. MEASURE the end result

Evaluate your work: is the task complete? Have you used a range of resources? Have you incorporated your own ideas?

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