Information research skills: getting started: SACE students

The Research Project is not like the usual assignment where you are given a topic.  In this instance you need to decide on your own topic to research.  How do you make that decision?

Just answer one of these questions:

1. What are your plans for the future?

2. What is your favourite thing to do?

If you answered question 1, focus your research project on these plans. For example, if you plan to go to university use your project to compare the different universities. This way you can (a) hand up a good project and (b) figure out which uni you like the best.

If you answered question 2, you can also focus your project on making comparisons. For example, if you really like reading Who Weekly focus your project on comparing it to Grazia and Hello magazines.

You need to have a plan.

Take the time to work out what you really need.

  • Create a mindmap to show what you already know and to branch out into new areas. 
    • Write down the key concepts that 'describe' your research.
    • What words will you use to search?
  • Who will you contact? 
  • Do you need basic information on how to conduct interviews or surveys?
  • Notate everything you do.
  • Follow the breadcrumbs.

Once you have planned your search, you can start finding information.

You could start with the UniSA Library catalogue, your school library, your local public library catalogue, or Google

Refine your Search

Most of the time, you will get more results than you need. To make your search more manageable, you can refine your search by:

  • Using the refinement options given by library catalogues 

These are usually shown on the left hand side of the results page. You can refine you results by selecting resource type (e.g. book, ebook, etc), date, subject, and more.

  • Using the advanced search

The advanced search option will give you more fields to add search information. You could add a specific author, publication title, language, location, and more depending on which search engine or catalogue you are using.

  • Becoming a Google Pro

Google has some specific shortcuts that you can use in the search bar to refine your search. Download the PDF below and keep in handy while you are searching Google.

Primary and Secondary Resources.

You need to use both Primary and Secondary resources in your Research Project. The YouTube video below may help you understand and then create your own primary resource.

Head to the SACE website or download the Primary and Secondary Sources document for more information.

Evaluating information is an important part of the research process.

The CRAAP Test was developed by the Meriam Library at California State University to help you evaluate the information you find. The information below has been adapted from this test.

Currency is about the timeliness of the information.
When was this published/posted? Is the information source out-of-date?  Is this a fast moving field (i.e. STEMM)?

Relevance is about how important information is to your needs.
Does the information relate to your question? Is the information at an appropriate level? Is the content appropriate?

Authority is about the source of the information.
Who is the author/publisher?  What are the authors qualifications? Is the information from a reputable organisation?

Accuracy is about the truthfulness of the information.
Is the information supported by evidence?  Can you verify the information? Has the author used good spelling/grammar?

Purpose is about the reason the information exists.
Why was the information written?  What are the motives of the author?  Are there any biases?

Test your skills by evaluating the website below. Do you think it passes the CRAAP test?

Save the Endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

Referencing is essential.

Referencing is a really important part of your Research Project. Referencing is used to show where you have used other people's ideas in your work.  There are many different referencing styles you can use - but check with your teacher to see if they have preferred style. If you do not reference other people's work, you can be penalised for plagiarism.

It is important that you start the referencing process when you start your research.

You need to make sure that you can look at your notes and see which ideas have come from which sources. It is incredibly hard to try and go back and figure out where you got different bits of information, and at the end of your project this can be really stressful.

To keep track of your references, you can use our Bibliography Planning Document.

Just remember, there are many different referencing styles you can use. You can find a list of different styles and some more example here. Before you get started on writing your references, check with your teacher to see if they recommend you use a particular style. can try using a referencing generator to create your references.  

These are our favourites:

If you need more information about referencing, SACE have put together a number of useful documents on their Research Advice webpage, including a Student Guide to Referencing, which you can access below:

Let's try a sample search using part of the SACE Research Project conducted by Oliver: The physics of designing a surfboard

What are the key concepts (which terms would you use to search)?

surfboard design physics

At this point you need to create a mindmap and look at alternative terms you could use:

  • Surfboard (board – probably too broad)
  • Design (construction, techniques, materials)
  • Physics (mechanics)

Always start with a simple search.

e.g. Surfboard AND design (most Library Catalogues and Search Engines assume the AND, you won't need to type it in)

The different searches may look like these, from simple to more complex:

Surfboard AND design

Surfboard AND physics

“surfboard design” AND physics

surfboard AND physics AND (design OR techniques OR construction)

Think about ways to refine your results:

  • date
  • including another term
  • subject options

Try this example in the Google Scholar search field below.  Don't forget to use the Advanced Search option to control and refine your results.


Google Scholar Search

Help from UniSA

The Library at UniSA can help you with your research project


Library memberships is free for secondary students in Years 10-12.  This enables students to borrow physical resources (books, DVD's).  Refer to the Borrowing information for details on how to join. It is important to remember that most of the resources purchased for the Library are now electronic.  Access to electronic resources is restricted. 

Guest Access Computer

If you wish to access electronic resources held by UniSA you will need to visit in person and ask to use the Guest Access Computer. 

UniSA's Free Online Resources

The Library has a range of freely accessible resources that you can use during your research project.  Some of these are listed below.

Who else can help?