This page takes you through the key steps in finding information for your assignment. It is aimed at 1st and 2nd level students. If you are doing higher-level modules, see: Finding information on your research topic.
OU Library Services offers a regular online training session on How to find information for your assignment.
- On this page:
- Before doing anything, check exactly what you are being asked to do by looking at the directions in your module materials.
- Think about what you already know. Where are the gaps in your knowledge? What do you need to find out?
- What type of information are you being asked to find? See Getting started with the online library for an explanation of what the online library is and what kinds of information are available to you.
Good places to start are:
- By following up relevant references in your course materials. To find the full text of journal articles in the online library, see How can I get access to a particular journal article?
- By doing an initial search on the internet. See Access eresources using Google Scholar. Bear in mind the need to evaluate what you find for credibility.
- By looking at the subject pages to see a selection of relevant books, journals and databases for your discipline or topic. See How do I find information on my subject?
- By using Library search to see a selection of articles from the online library and to get an idea which resources will be most helpful to you.
Planning: Think about what you are really looking for and decide which words best describe your topic. You will probably have a go at searching and adapt your search as you go along, depending on what you find.
Refining your search: If you find too many results, you may want to add more keywords to make it more specific. If you find too few relevant results, try removing one or two words to make your search broader. Set a time limit and stop if you have not found anything.
For more detailed guidance see Planning and carrying out a search.
If you have a large number of results you will first want to filter them to weed out irrelevant information. A quick way of judging the quality and relevance of information you find on the web is to ask: Who? Why? When?
- Who put the information there (who owns the site)?
- Why did they create the site?
- When was the site last updated?
For journal articles, peer review can provide a guide to academic quality, but you should still carry out your own evaluation, to be sure the information meets your needs.
For more detailed guidance see Evaluate information.
For any material you consult it is a good idea to record what you find, and where and when you found it. This will make it easier to acknowledge your sources correctly and retrace your steps if you need to.
For more guidance see Referencing and plagiarism.