For your assignments, you may be required to find additional information resources. The key steps include:
These steps will get you started, to develop your skills further see Finding information on your research topic.
We offer regular online training sessions on Using Library Search 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, or 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, etc..
Focusing your search
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.
- Be prepared to change your strategy and adapt your search as you go along, depending on what you find. 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 focus 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
Good places to look for information are:
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 using the filter options.
- You can find particular journal articles using Library Search, by searching for the article title.
- Library Search also searches across a large number of our databases or collections which means you can search across many 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 take 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 PROMPT mnemonic (Presentation, Relevance, Objectivity, Method, Provenance, 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 reference your sources correctly and retrace your steps if you need to. For more guidance see Referencing and plagiarism.