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Wednesday, 20 April 2022

The jigsaw puzzle of research … demystified


By Jillian Viljoen

Have you ever tried completing a jigsaw puzzle of 1000 pieces? When I opened the box of my first 1000 piece puzzle, I looked at the beautiful countryside scenery image on the box, then stared at the many tiny puzzle pieces, and thought “What were you thinking?” It was a daunting reality that I had to now make sense of the disorder of pieces to create the end result on the box.

 As with any jigsaw puzzle, you usually sort the pieces with straight edges into one pile, and create the frame, and then you put pieces with similar colouring together and add those in the frame to complete the picture. But how do we know to use that method to get the end result? We were probably shown by someone when we did our very first jigsaw puzzle, right?


Sometimes, conducting research is like a jigsaw puzzle. We have the final picture which is what we hope to achieve based on the topic, research questions and objectives. But we need to fill in the blanks and add substance to the research by finding information to substantiate or expand on the topic, apart from the data collection and analysis. That is where the library comes in.

 The library has many online and print resources which include print and ebooks which can be found via the library’s catalogue and electronic articles which are found on the databases which the library subscribes to. The information that you require for your particular topic is contained within all the resources at your disposal. You need the skills to identify and extract that particular information. Learning how to access and effectively use these resources for information searches can either be done by using the step-by-step guides on the library training LibGuide or by contacting a subject librarian for assistance. The subject librarians provide training and skills necessary for you to focus your searches specifically on your topic and how to then collate everything into a comprehensible arrangement; much like someone showing you how to complete your very first jigsaw puzzle.


Once you have learnt and mastered the information searching skills, you are well on your way to being a productive, independent researcher. These skills are the foundation of all research endeavours.

 If you are currently experiencing difficulties with information searches for your research, contact a subject librarian today. After all, the completed jigsaw puzzle of your particular research provides valuable insight for other researchers throughout the world.


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