How to research for your essays and assignments

STRUGGLING to find good references for your essay assignments? Amy Lau shows you how to get all the references you need with just a few mouse clicks.

How to research for an essay

I spent my first year of university hunting for library books and researching Google e-books for my essay assignments, and was often frustrated that I was unable to acquire or access what I needed. The competition for library books was intense and unless I borrowed the books I needed weeks before my assignment dateline, they wouldn’t have been available to me until after my essay was due.

I also lost count of the number of times my perusal of Google e-books ended in disappointment, with the words, “Some pages have been omitted from this book preview”, staring mockingly at me.

As a student at the University of Melbourne, I was required to reference at least four good books for each essay assignment. But if I wanted to score a decent grade, I  needed to reference more – many, many more – to prove to my lecturers and tutors I had conducted sufficient research to substantiate my arguments and points of view.

It wasn’t until the end of the year that I discovered I had full access to online journal databases, such as SAGE Journals, JSTOR, and Taylor & Francis Online, with just my University of Melbourne student ID. I actually didn’t have to fork out any money at all.

I also found out a lot of my university peers, including students from Monash University and RMIT University, were unaware that they too could have used their student IDs to access the same resources.

So if you have been or will be studying in the University of Melbourne, Monash University, or RMIT, and don’t know how to fully access the online journal databases for free, now’s a good time to learn.

University of Melbourne

University of Melbourne

If you’re studying at the University of Melbourne, click on “A-Z Databases” on the University Library homepage and you’ll be directed to a screen where you’ll be required to enter your University of Melbourne username and password.

University of Melbourne

If you know which database you want, type it in and click “Go”. If not, click “Subject” and select your area of study to narrow down the database list. Once you’ve made your choice, you’ll be directed to that database.

Monash University

Monash University

Monash University students should head to the university’s library homepage and click  on “A-Z Databases”, located beneath the search bar.

Monash University

You can choose a database from the list, or filter it by subject first. Click “connect” and you’ll be prompted to provide your Monash University login details.

RMIT University

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Likewise, students from RMIT University need only head to the university’s library homepage and look for the “Databases” tab and define the terms of your search – that is, to find by “Databases A-Z” or by topic. You will then be prompted to provide your RMIT ID and password.

And you’re in!

SAGE Journals

Type in the keywords that relate to your essay assignment and you’ll have access to hundreds of journal articles. You can read them on the site or download them in PDF format.

Were there things you wish you knew when you were in first year? Or do you have research or study tips that really work for you and would like to share? Tell us in the comments section below, or email your contributions to

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