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Research Skills

Information to help students find, evaluate, reference, and write for their assignments

Research and Information Literacy skills

This guide will help you develop the skills you need to write successful assignments. Start on this page for an introduction to research and information literacy.

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What is research?

We are information gatherers. Every day we will go online to find out information about certain topics, whether it be finding out the weather forecast, what movies are showing at the cinema, shopping for a new phone or finding out about your favourite musician.

However, searching for information is not always the same as research, and the places you look for information in your daily life are not the same as the sources you should consult for your assignments. This guide will explain the difference and give you some tips to help you identify sources that are appropriate for your studies.

Watch the video below to understand the difference between searching online for information and conducting research.

McMaster Libraries. (2016). How library stuff works: Search vs research [Video]. YouTube.

Why do we research?


The ability to research, find, and evaluate information is an important part of participating in society. 

Knowing how to research effectively will mean you are a well-informed citizen capable of making decisions in your everyday life, in your job, and with your assignments, that you can feel confident about.

Types of research

Primary research
Primary research is the collection of original data directly from primary sources, and the interpretation of such data. Primary research methods include observation, interviews, surveys, experiments, close-reading of creative works, etc.  

You may be required to refer to primary research in your assignments—usually complemented by secondary research material (see below). Alternatively, your assignment may require you to design and carry out primary research of your own, using one or more of the methods above.


Secondary research
Secondary research is the process of gathering and using existing data, information, scholarship, theory, etc. to support your own research or the work you are doing in your assignment. You will refer to secondary material in most assignments you write. Ideally, the secondary material you use will be authoritative, peer-reviewed, and gathered from a variety of sources such as books, journals, and the scholarly resources available in the Library databases.

Click on the images below to check out more information about primary and secondary research and resources from our Research Starter database:

What is information literacy?

Information literacy is the ability to confidently use a range of tools to find quality information, critically evaluate the information, and apply it in your everyday life (and, of course, your assignments).

Being information literate is very important at Wintec, where you will be expected to find and use reliable sources to support your ideas. In an age where ready access to the Internet means it is easy to be overwhelmed by information, it can be hard to know where to start with finding good quality sources.

The following sections of this guide will help you gain the skills to find and recognise reliable information:

Critical evaluation of sources

 Finding quality sources

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