Do you know how your students work through a research assignment? From a recent survey of thousands of college students, we discovered that the majority (47%) of students think it takes only “1–2 hours to find citable sources” for their research paper.

We also asked instructors what they recommend, and naturally, the majority felt this was too little time spent researching. So where do they begin that is so efficient it only takes an hour or two?

Research process

We also asked the students, “Where is the first place you go when doing research for class assignments?” Course materials, Google, LMS, Google Scholar, Wikipedia, Library, or other?

A significant majority revealed they begin with either their textbooks and course materials, or with a visit to Google.

According to our results, 40% of college students begin their quest for research with their course materials, and another 40% start by searching Google. Additionally, 11% start at the library, 5% start on Google Scholar, and 1% begin with Wikipedia.


college student research methodologies

Several students selected “Other” and wrote-in that they begin their hunt for research with an online database, either provided by their school or a separate entity related to their field of study, such as the Library of Congress.

If your course will be moderately or highly research-intensive, ensure that your students are aware of all the school resources available to them. If there are specific resources or databases that you find useful for the discipline, share these with them as well. Visit our post, “Encouraging Students to Use Research Databases” for more tips.

Another clever write-in answer recommended that students begin with their own written notes. Students are likely to take thorough notes on topic areas that interest them in the course. Encourage your students to skim back to through their notes when beginning a research project.

Not only will this help them recall topics of interest, but this will also help them keep their project on a path that supports the class objectives.

Online resources

The benefits to digital and online resources for students is virtually limitless. In a separate yes-or-no question that we served to this same group of students, 80% of students said they wish online library resources were easily accessible via their course materials.

Digital resources allow students to access materials and additional resources whenever and wherever they have the time. This means fewer excuses and more well-researched, fact-checked assignments.

Do you spend time with your students going over research methods? Share your answer below.