Your subject-specific guide to using library resources.
Every good assignment, essay, final-year dissertation and thesis is supported by well-researched information. However, this information can come in many different forms, from websites and social media posts to traditional academic material such as books, journal articles and conference proceedings. Depending on your topic, you might also want to use newspaper articles, official publications, trade journals, market research reports, special collections, images, datasets, and even television programmes or interviews. The possibilities are endless!
Books are still one of the most common types of information used in university studies. They offer an in-depth overview of popular ideas, theories, and opinions in your subject area. Books are likely to be broader in scope than a journal article or conference paper, though research monographs will often be highly specialised: (a monograph simply means a book which focuses on a single subject, usually written by a single author: thus differing from a textbook or edited collection). Use the contents and index to search for your specific topic, and the bibliography and notes will lead you on to other readings.
Journals are usually published at regular intervals throughout the year. Each journal issue will contain a collection of individual articles. Articles may report original research, or be reviews, opinion/commentary pieces or book reviews. As they are usually peer-reviewed for quality, they make excellent sources of evidence for other academic work.
Conference proceedings are collections of papers reporting on presentations or posters delivered at conferences, seminars or workshops. They often discuss ‘work-in-progress’, and are therefore an ideal way of finding out about up-to-date research and ideas. However, like journal articles, conference papers can be highly specialised.
You can easily search for completed postgraduate theses online. If you are writing a dissertation or thesis yourself, this can be an invaluable source of information. For example, you can see how other students approached their work, what references they used, and which research methods they adopted. On a more practical note, you’ll also get an understanding of how to format and structure your work.
The Library provides access to a wide range of sources related to company information and market research. Although of particular relevance to business students, this material could be useful in many other fields too. Market research, for example, contains a lot of useful statistical evidence of market trends, important policy and business decisions, together with consumer choices and spending habits.
Newspapers can be an invaluable source of information, giving you a perspective on events, together with commentary and opinions that reflect social, political and cultural attitudes of a particular place and time. However, their value isn't just limited to to researching events: you could use our extensive newspaper archives for linguistic analysis, social trends, literary and arts reviews or public opinion, to name but a few ideas. The Library has access to a great range of online newspaper archives from the 17th century to the present day.
Social media is playing an increasingly important role in academic research communication and dissemination. For example, more and more researchers are using platforms such as Twitter to promote and share their work. As a result, searching social media archives may unearth a lot of useful, up-to-date analysis and research.
Whatever your research topic, you may want to find and use audiovisual materials in your work. These may include media such as video, television programmes, images, games, animations and audio files. Your main difficulty will be where to begin searching for such materials, since they don't all get stored in one particular database. Fortunately, we have guidance for you!
Official publications include statistics, Parliamentary papers, Government reports, legislation and case law, publications from international organisations (e.g. European Union and United Nations), and grey literature (see box below). Whatever your topic, you should consider whether there may be any relevant official publications.
If you're studying subjects such as geography, earth sciences, archaeology or architecture, maps will be a very important source of information. However, maps could also be used in a variety of other ways, for example, to track or present thematic information. Read more on our guide!
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