Leeds University Library

Researching for an essay

Before you begin your essay, take the time to understand and interpret your question, assignment brief and marking criteria. If you are not sure how to do this, please see our Interpreting your assignment resource (activity).

For every assignment, identify what reading you need to undertake: 
  • Try using a mind-map or spider diagram to note down some initial thoughts and ideas. What do you think should be in the essay? What limits are you setting? What do you think the different points of view might be? This will help you to focus your reading
  • Make sure you know how to locate appropriate sources such as academic books and journal articles
  • See our Searching for information topic page for excellent guidance on finding high quality information to use in your essays. 

When reading, make meaningful notes:

  • Don't copy out the text that you are reading word for word
  • Add your own thoughts to your notes and critically engage with the texts you are reading
  • Have your essay question in mind; what information is important and relevant? What evidence will help you to build an argument?
  • If a particular phrase or sentence might be useful to include in your work, note it down in quotation marks. Take careful note of the page numbers and full details of the source that you are reading.

See our Note taking and note making tutorial (activity) to show you how to make effective notes from your reading. 

See our Critical reading page for advice on engaging critically with your texts.