How To Do Research for a Killer Essay

Pen and Highlighter on top of research articles; Eating Disorders
Whether it´s in uni or at school students are bombarded with essays. While I had been spared with them in school, uni has definitely made up for it. Now that the new year has started, deadlines are coming closer and we´re all swearing that we´ll do it right this year. Honestly, I´m pretty confident in my essay skills. I do have to thank the best editor in the world, my mom, for making me sound really intelligent but the research is all down to me. So today I though I´d give my knowledge on to you and show you how you can do your best research ever.


Writing is definitely the part that seems most important for an essay as it´s what is graded in the end. However, scheduling three days to write and only one to do any research is not going to work. You need a broad knowledge about and evidence for what you want to say. When you´ve done thorough research and taken notes, writing´s a snap. Also you avoid sitting there staring at a blinking cursor for hours on end.

Get an Overview

You´ve probably got a general idea about your topic from your class but don´t make any decisions based on that. I always like to type my topic into google and just have a general browse. You know, look it up on Wikipedia and all the other websites ridiculed by teachers. This helps me get an overview over my topic which will then help me think about keywords for my research (and maybe even a rough structure).

Pen and Highlighter on top of Research Paper; Eating Disorders; ARFID

Where to research

The first step for me is always checking the web catalogue of my uni´s library for any books about my topic. Obviously I then try to get a hold of these books. Many universities offer a scanner where scanning whole chapters takes no time. That way you don´t have to take home heavy books and you can actually highlight the text.
If you´re looking for research papers online (which I highly suggest!) it can be a bit more difficult depending on your access. Most universities offer a great access to journals if you use their wifi. If you´re not at uni yet I´d try to find articles that are open to the public or try to find someone at uni willing to help you.
My favourite place to look for articles online is Science Direct. It´s a great service showing you abstracts and articles when you enter your keywords. You can also very easily download the pdfs. I´ve had no problems with access here and you´ll mostly find tons of papers for your topic. Another place I always type my keywords in is Google Scholar. They don´t exclusively show professional research papers but most of the times I do find a few more articles because of their broader search field. However, you might encounter problems with access even if you´re at uni.
One of my more recent finds is Research Gate. I got a few open access articles from there before but never made myself an account. You definitely should though and here´s why: not all papers on there are open access but if you have an account you can ask the researchers for access to their paper. Having talked to many researchers at my uni I can tell you that most of them love nothing more than sharing their work. So this is a great way to get access to many papers!

Pen and Highlighter on top of Research Paper; Eating Disorders; ARFID


I guess it´s obvious that you should read all the material you got. A good way to systematically read them is to skim the material once before taking your highlighter and thoroughly reading it all. Also I always make a point of only highlighting important words or phrases and no more than one or two in one paragraph. That way I don´t overload my essay with information.


Once you´ve got all your reading done it´s time to set your essays structure in stone. Afterwards you can go through your material again and note down every highlighted point the correct part of your structure. Afterwards you can go through all your sections again and sort all the notes in there to put them in a good order. Now writing is really just putting your notes into full sentences!

Highlighters on top of Research Papers; Klinische Psychologie; book: decorations; deer


Writing your bibliography at the end is always the most boring task. Luckily, there are many tools out there that can help you. It certainly depends on what you like working with though. For me, I like working with Zotero on my Macbook. It´s easy and intuitive to use. Also I can directly input all articles from the internet with the press of one button which makes it so easy to use. At uni I´ve also worked with Citavi which is really easy to use as well. Sadly, Citavi is only available for Windows PCs.

I think research is really the key to a good essay. Your writing (or editor) can be wonderful but if you don´t have the evidence to back your points up it´s worth nothing. If you struggle with your writing there are tons of posts out there on how to perfect your writing. Both research and writing take some time to perfect or even get used to. I do have to say that I really like writing essays as I get a deep look into a topic while also thinking critically about it all. I hope my tips can help you do the best research for your next essays.

Do you prefer books or research papers as your research base?


  1. So many great tips! Although I have to be honest reading this makes me so glad my uni days and all that hard studying is behind me! Haha xx

    1. Thank you. Yes, you can be very glad about that. I do like uni and learning but the studying is also so much stress!
      xx Lisa

  2. These are great tips and I hope they will help those who are studying! I remember how many hours I spent making my research when writing my essays, hours and hours! I wish we had tools back then (yes, it's been a long time haha) to help us minimize the hard work and time! x


    1. Thank you lovely! I know we´re quite lucky, these tools make a lot of stuff easier! I do spend hours on research though because I always feel like I don´t have enough.
      xx Lisa

  3. Really great tips for uni peeps, lovely!! I enjoy anything school/college/university related so I thoroughly enjoyed your advice. I remember studying my butt off back when I was a student & certain tips you mentioned have always helped me to stay on top of everything. Highlighters were my best friends!! :D
    I do wish there were resources and tools, which people use today, back then.
    xox Nadia

    1. Thank you! I love my highlighters. I probably will never use up all the colours I own though, haha.
      xx Lisa


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