Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

How to Write an Undergraduate-Level Essay

Step-by-step guidance and resources for planning, researching, and writing essays as an undergraduate student

What search tools are available?

Depending on your topic, you might want to search any one of the tools listed in this highly simplified diagram. The tools are listed in order of size, Google being the largest and each of the specialised databases being the smallest.

 For a description of these search tools click on the following links:

  1. Google - How Search Works (5:00)
  2. Google Scholar
  3. Discovery
  4. Specialized databases (use the subject guides to find your field of study)

Choosing an appropriate search tool

Searching is partly a creative process where you explore a variety of search tools to find the relevant information you need. Before choosing your search tool(s), ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who produces or publishes the information I need?
  2. How do they distribute that information?

If you are just getting started with an unfamiliar topic, or if you are searching for material published by either government bodies, companies, or research/policy groups, Google can be the best tool for your needs. Open websites such as Wiikipedia can provide a useful overview of new topics and position you to find more credible literature that you can cite in your paper. Government bodies, companies, or research/policy groups, often publish their material on the open internet, so Google is the best place to look for their works.

If you are looking for material from scholars, you should start at the RRU Library homepage and use either Google Scholar, Discovery or a subject specific database.

  • Access Discovery by entering your search in the main search box on the library homepage
  • Access Google Scholar from the "Find" box
  • Access specific databases from the Library Databases tab above the main search box

Scholarly material is often published behind 'paywalls'. RRU Library subscribes to many of these resources on your behalf; starting your literature searches on the library homepage ensures you will find our licensed materials more easily.

It is especially important to start your Google Scholar searches from the Library Homepage. While this does not change which citations show up in your results, it can simplify your access to the articles themselves. On the right side of your Google Scholar results, every article held in the RRU collection will have a ‘Full text @ RRU’ link that will lead you to the full text.