You may be required to find additional information resources for your assignment. The key steps include:
- planning your search before carrying it out, which will save you time
- narrowing and focusing your search to exclude less relevant results
- evaluating what you find, so you can decide what to include in your assignment
- keeping track of the sources you intend to use
These steps are aimed at 1st and 2nd level students. For more advanced techniques see: Finding information on your research topic.
Planning your search
- Check what you are being asked to do by looking at the guidance notes in your module materials.
- Think about what you already know. Where are the gaps in your knowledge? What do you need to find out? Think about what you are really looking for and decide which words best describe your topic. Be focused and specific.
- Think about synonyms, or alternative terms for your subject, for example, soccer or football; children or young people.
- What sort of information are you looking for? For example, a basic introduction, a detailed explanation, a set of statistics providing evidence of research? Think about where you are most likely to find this: an online reference work might give you a basic introduction, a book may provide a more detailed explanation and a statistics database or journal article may be the place to find evidence.
- Decide on the best place to look: Library Search, a Library database, Google Scholar...
To learn how to focus your search using targeted keywords explore the 5 minute choosing good keywords activity on Being Digital.
- Have a go at searching using some of the keywords you’ve identified and adapt your search as you go along, depending on what you find.
- If you don't find anything within a reasonable time period, e.g. 30 minutes, be prepared to change your strategy. For example, use different words to search or use a different resource.
- You can add keywords to make your search more specific if you have too many results. If you find too few results, try removing words to make your search broader.
- Most search tools give you the option to filter your search results by subject or resource type. Try using these to increase the relevancy of your search results and reduce the number you need to look through.
- Advanced search options allow you to look for your search terms within a particular part of the details associated with each item, e.g. author or subject. You can use these to hone your search so that it gives you the most relevant results. When you first start these can be tricky, try it with one search term first to build your skills.
To learn how to narrow your search results try the 10 minute filtering information quickly activity on Being Digital.
Where to look
- Library Search
- Finding a journal article
- Selected resources for your study
- Access eresources using Google Scholar
Using Library Search
- Searching for the title of the resource such as an ebook, database or journal, should bring up the item you are looking for at or near the top of the results. If not, you can limit your search by resource type under ‘Refine my results’.
- You can find particular articles using Library Search, by searching for the article title, and get straight to all of our electronic resources by clicking on ‘view online’.
- Library Search also searches across a large number of our databases or collections which means you can search across a large number of resources at the same time. You can also limit by creation date; author; subject; journal title; language or collection, this will allow you to refine and focus your search.
Evaluating what you find
If you have a large number of results you will first want to filter them to weed out any that are not relevant. A quick way of judging the quality and relevance of a source, especially on the Internet is to ask:
- Who is the author of the source? Who put the information there (who owns the site)? What authority or expertise do they have in this area?
- Why was the source created?
- When was the source 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.
Evaluating in more depth
To thoroughly check the relevance of sources you find you can use the the PROMPT mnemonic (Provenance, Relevance, Objectivity, Method, Presentation, Timeliness) which is detailed in the Evaluation using PROMPT activity on the Being Digital website.
Keeping track of what you find and acknowledging your sources
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.