Steps to Researching

Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start when asked to research a topic.  

The following pages have plenty of tips on how to maximise your skills as a researcher. There are a number of steps to start your research outlined below.

1. Starting Off

What do I want to find out?

When you are doing research, first, you need to be clear what you are looking for information about. Ask yourself "What do I want to know?"

Research Steps Spider Diagrm
  • write down some of the things which you want to find out.
    Example, “I want to find out about lighthouses
  • ask questions to help you to look up information - “Is there any lighthouse near where I live?” and   "How did lighthouses work in the past?”
  • List some places (sources) where you could look to find an answer to your questions.

What do I know about this already?

Activate previous learning!

This means that you should note some of the things that you already know about the topic on a brainstorm diagram or a spider diagram.

2. What to do During your Research

Organise the information:

When you find information that you are looking for you need to be able to do something with it. You might for example take note of some key points.

Research Steps KWL Chart

Organise the information gathered. Sort and classify the information by placing it in lists or by taking out some main points

  • Put it in a sequence. Decide which part of the information should go first.
  • Compare the information to information to information you found in a different place
  • Analyse the information. Write what you think about what you have found out.
  • Decide on the way you would like to present your research information.

Note-taking and summarising:

This skill helps you to take note of some important ideas. You can note them in words or you can use pictures and words to help you remember the main things.

List information that you gather under headings before, during and after your research. You can use a KWL chart like the one on the right.

3. How to Find Information Quickly

Skim Reading:

Skim reading means reading quickly through a piece of reading text so that you can get the overall gist of it without reading every word. You might read the title, headings, subheadings and the first sentence of every paragraph. Any pictures or photos that appear with the text can also help you to get the gist of what the text is about.

Skimming is useful for helping you to identify the main ideas of a text and to find out whether the content is of interest to you.


Scanning: this is where you are looking for particular information or key words. You read quickly through the index, the table of contents, pages of a book or headings and menus in a website to see if they contain the main word or topic you are looking for.

4. How to read non-fiction in a book or website

Remember information comes in a variety of forms such as in images, diagrams, maps charts, illustrations. When you are reading, you have to look at all the clues.

Tips for reading non-fiction:

  • Look at the headings in the menu or index. Choose a key word.
  • Examine the illustrations, drawings and maps. Notice any captions or text boxes which tell you about these.
  • Watch out for fact boxes. These usually tell you some important information about a topic.

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