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Read the assignment details carefully

While this may seem like a basic step, make sure from the beginning that you understand the assignment. If you have any questions, ask your professor as soon as possible. Keeping the requirements, questions, and criteria in mind from the very beginning is key to receiving a good grade on any assignment. This is not something you want to make sure you understand for the first time after you've done a lot of research and writing!

Reading like a college student

Reading can be time consuming, especially when you don't know if what you're reading will pay off. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Skim the book [or article]. Examine the table of contents [or abstract] to get a feeling for the structure and main points of the book. Flip through the chapters, skimming the first few paragraphs of each, and then the section headings. Check the index for any topics you feel are especially important. Then, if you have time;
  2. Read the Introduction and conclusion. Most of the author’s theoretical position will be laid out in the introduction, along with at least a summary of the chapters and sections within. The conclusion revisits much of these points, and usually gives a good overview of the data or other evidence. Sometimes the conclusion is not marked as such; in this case, read the last chapter. Then, if you have time;
  3. Dip in. Read the chapters [or paragraphs] that seem most relevant or interesting. Get a sense for what the author is trying to accomplish. Flip through the rest of the book and look more closely at anything that catches your eye. Then, if you have time;
  4. Finish the book. Read the whole thing. If you know you’ll have time, skip 1 – 3 and just read, cover to cover.

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Background Knowledge

In order to begin research, you will need a certain amount of information. After studying your assignment directions and picking a topic, you'll need to find some basic information. The term for encyclopedias and dictionaries is "reference materials". We have two main reference databases that can be a great start for your research.

Evaluating sources and point of view