You may be required to find additional information resources for your assignment. The key steps include:
These steps are aimed at 1st and 2nd level students. For more advanced techniques see: Finding information on your research topic.
OU Library Services offers a regular online training session on How to find information for your assignment.
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.
- 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.
To learn how to narrow your search results try the 10 minute filtering information quickly activity on Being Digital.
Where to look
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.