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College Level Research: Understanding Challenging Material

Build on your high school research experiences and adjust to the higher standards recommended for college research projects with these tips and guidelines.

Reading to Understand

You may encounter information that you find to be challenging and difficult to comprehend.  You may be confronted with textbooks, research articles and lectures presenting advanced material.  It is important to be able to understand all of this information--new concepts and vocabulary-- and to be able to communicate what you have learned to others. 

The following website describes a useful strategy to reading challenging material, especially for college-level learning.

Taking Notes

Take Notes

  • As you read your sources of information and interview experts:
    • take notes
    • paraphrase or quote main ideas and evidence related to your research
    • several notes from one source can be on the same page
    • numbering, grammar and abbreviations are your choice--make them work for you!
  • Document the source (author, year, title of work, page number OR person interviewed and date) 


Lyons & Evans  (2013).  Blended Learning to Increase Student SatisfactionInternet Reference    Services Quarterly 18:1, 43-53. 

Students appreciated “the practical application of the facilitators’ replies, especially the chance for one-on-one time with the librarian.” p47

“Students were able to continue their research during the week, at their convenience, without having to wait until the next in-person meeting” p48

“Participation in both semesters was at a highest when students were  asked about their search strategies and the librarian assisted with selecting library databases and subject headings for their search terms” p48

“Students felt distant from the activity when there was a lack of immediate responses to posts” p48

Students “were surprised by how passionate people became about their projects” p48

Unexpected benefit: the level “students learned from each other in this venue, including finding motivation, focus, insight, and understanding from their peers’ feedback”” p49-50

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