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Information for projects: 5. Where to look

A problem or topic based guide to help you with your academic assignments from start to finish

Which information source?

Different resource types

With so many different types of resources to choose from, how do you decide which one to use?

The good news is that you can use one or more different sources, depending on what type of information you need, whether you need current or historical information, or a combination of both.

Here are some tips which may help you decide:

  • Journal articles are an excellent primary source of the most recent research.  They are published regularly and much faster than books.  'Peer reviewed' journal articles go through a very tough review process by experts in the subject discipline.  These are of the highest academic quality.
  • Books are a good starting point (which is why they are usually on your module reading list) and give an overview of a subject area.  They do take a long time to be published so be aware that the information may not always be up to date.
  • Reference resources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries and thesauri are a good starting point to identify your keywords and get a summary of a topic.
  • Conference papers are often published within days or weeks of the event - much faster than journal articles or books - so you may find very current information and ideas from these.
  • Newspapers and online news sites publish information within minutes!
  • Audio/visual material can give an interesting perspective to a topic, for example lectures or documentaries are often available online.

Using the Internet for your assignment

Although the Internet is very useful, it isn’t usually the best place to look for academic literature.   However, if you are going to use a search engine, make sure that you know how it works and how to search it effectively.

Reasons for using the Internet in your research:

  • Search engines are quick and it's easy to type in free text search box.
  • It can give you access to government and company information.
  • Great for accessing news sites.  
  • Sites like Google Scholar give you access to some online journals.

Reasons not to rely solely on the Internet in your research:

  • You can end up with too much, irrelevant information.
  • Many sources of academic information are 'hidden' from search engines and can only be found via academic databases.
  • You may end up with poor quality information which is not at the correct academic level.
  • Advanced and specific searching is limited in most search engines.

Find out more about how to search the Internet using Google effectively.

Google Tips & Tricks

Google Search tools & filters

Useful video - Why can't I just Google?

Do this

You may think that only books, journals and the Internet are useful resources for your assignment, however there are even more different kinds of information that you could use. 

Have a look at the picture on the left and then see if you can find some different types of resources.

Do this: 

  • Find your subject library guide on the library webpages here (click on Subject Support).
  • Try to find some of the resource types shown above by clicking on the different tabs in the guide. 
  • Do you think that any of these could be useful in your assignments?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

Where to look checklist

Where to look checklist image

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