We are all researchers! Booking a bus journey or flight, choosing a university course, trying to find the perfect coffee or ice-cream cone – these are all examples of research in everyday life.

Research skills refer to the ability to search for, locate, extract, organise, evaluate and use or present information that is relevant to a particular topic. Academic research is a specific type of research: a process of detailed and methodical investigation into some area of study. It involves intensive search, investigation, and critical analysis, usually in response to a specific research question or hypothesis. It also usually involves a lot of reading. 

Here are some examples of research questions:

  • What are the costs and benefits of water charges?
  • Does smoking cause lung cancer?
  • Are gender roles a product of nature or nurture?
  • Will genetic engineering ever make it possible for humans to grow new organs?

The point of all academic research is to be able to say something with authority about the subject in question. Most of your lecturers are also researchers who specialise in particular fields. Advanced academic research aims to contribute something new to the subject area, but at undergraduate level, you are usually expected to begin by researching other people’s ideas and contributions, mostly through reading.

Click on the boxes below to find out more about reading and research at university. 

Supported by the NUI Galway Student Project Fund