Making the Most of Your Time: Planning Ahead for Library Research

How much time does it take to complete a research assignment?  This is tough to answer, since people and assignments are so variable. According to research from Rice University, you may need between 3 and 5 hours per double-spaced page to produce a good assignment. By these estimates, 6-page paper could take up to 30 hours from start to finish.


So how much time might each phase of your research take?


If you’re only looking for resources from the open web, the results can be a fraction of a second away. But are they reliable, accurate sources?  Does your web searching bring up relevant results, or an overwhelming wall of links that aren’t quite what you need?  If you’re having trouble, try looking at some of the curated web resources in our Libguides.  This should save you some time.


If your assignment requires academic sources, you will be spending some time searching in the online library. The bulk of the Library’s resources are electronic and available immediately, but coming up with an effective search strategy can be a sticking point for many researchers. Try asking a reference librarian via our chat service for help. On average, our reference librarians respond to a chat request within 20 seconds, and the whole reference chat usually takes less than 20 minutes. We of course offer synchronous reference services by phone, Skype, and in person, as well.


Depending on your reading speed, scanning through your search results and reading the sources you’ve gathered will likely take several hours. You can get a jump on your citations at this stage by using NoodleTools to organize your sources and research notes.


There’s a chance you may find a resource that you don’t have instant access to through the library’s website or available on the library shelves. To get ahold of an item from another library’s collection, you can submit a request for an Interlibrary Loan, or ILL. Our library processes most ILLs within 24 hours. If we find a willing lender, most ILLs will be received within 3-7 business days. It’s best to request ILLs early in your research process, so there is plenty of time to get the material and make use of it. There may also be a small fee per fulfilled request, but it is undoubtedly cheaper than purchasing a book or article you only intend to use once.

Putting it all together

Drafting and refining your assignment will take many more hours of work.  Hopefully you will have planned far enough ahead to most effectively use the many available resources of the Bellevue University Library to put together an awesome project.

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