A- Level: Researching

internet-replacing-traditional-researchYou’ll be expected within A-Level to show an ability to go away & research information beyond that which the teacher tells you. You’ll also need to research for coursework elements of your A-Level studies, and this will be a new skill for many of you.

To research a topic well, follow some key rules:

  1. When using the internet, don’t forget to try “Google Books” & “Google Scholar”- they can take you straight to recognised & respected information on your topic, avoiding the pitfalls of using an amateur’s opinions on their blog or something…
  2. You can use Wikipedia… as a starting point. A well put-together page has citations running throughout it (the little blue numbers next to a point). Click on them & see where Wikipedia got its information from- follow the rabbit trail to its original source & you could stumble upon a golden nugget, or a whole treasure chest of useful information.
  3. Don’t just use the internet. Seriously- it looks lazy to an examiner, who expects you to actually read a book by now.
  4. When using a book- go to the index and look up your key words- is this book covering the topics you want it to.
  5. Always find out some information about the author- it can really help inform your own opinions & show the examiner you know your stuff.
  6. If you don’t own the book, photocopy the relevant pages. That way you can refer back to it at a later date if needed, and research more effectively by…
  7. Highlight key sentences/phrases, and annotate next to them. Why have you highlighted this? Is it about a cause/consequence/impact? Is it an opinion? This makes it easier when you return to the information.
  8. Use a mind-map to ‘map out’ what you’re finding. You can use it as your own contents page to your research later.
  9. If you photocopied a large section, or did read from the book, make sure you note down page numbers. That way, you’ll be able to find it later, and reference it properly within an answer.
  10. Don’t struggle on if you’re completely lost on where to go- ask your teacher for direction!

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