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LibrarySkills@UCL: Library skills essentials

A guide to foundation principles which are essential to building skills in all areas of information literacy and library skills.

5 steps to effective library research

When working on an assignment or research study, your library research follows a process. Ensure you consider every step in the process. Although the process is linear, you will usually find you need to revisit steps as you uncover more information.

Our model illustrates the process in five steps, which map to the related knowledge and library skills covered in our guides.

5 steps to effective library research model

  1. Plan your search
    • Understanding your search: Understanding your topic and the nature and extent of your library research task.
    • Defining search terms: Identifying search concepts and alternative search terms.
    • Where to look for information: Select resources to search for information to inform your research.
  2. Search
    • Develop your search strategy: Combining search concepts and utilising appropriate search rules to ensure an effective search.
    • Review and refine your search: Revisiting your search to develop it further as you discover more about the topic and existing sources of information.
  3. Evaluate your results
    • Select relevant, reliable, valid sources: Think critically about the information you have retrieved and assess whether to use it to inform your work.
  4. Manage and cite your references
    • Organise your references: Keep track of the information you retrieve so you can come back to it and acknowledge it in your work.
    • Acknowledge and cite appropriately: Follow standardised protocols for consistent and accurate referencing of your information sources in your work.
  5. Communicate your research.
    • Produce your research output: Writing, presenting and sharing your work.