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Assignment Survival Guide

Online library

Online Library

Osmiling female student using laptopnce you are  ready to begin your research, using the identified topic and the keywords you decided on in Step 2, you may be wondering where to find the information that will help you.

A number of resources are available, both in the library and online through the university website. The best place to browse these resources is via the Library Resources website, which is the recommended starting point when looking for information.

In addition, there are a number of links to online resources which are organised according to the subject area you are studying.

Subject Guides

Assistance is also available via the Subject Support Guides . Select your own subject area from the list of subjects and you will be presented with useful resources designed to support your area of study. Contact details for your Subject Librarian are also available should you require advanced assistance.

What if I need help?

What if I need help?

Help to access any of the library resources is available in a number of ways:

Contact us online

We will be happy to assist you via our online eHelpdesk service. 

Seek the advice of an Academic Skills Tutor

Use the Meet the team page to find out who is the librarian for your subject area. They can help you to locate quality books, eBooks, eJournals, search subject databases and help with referencing. Tutors can also offer study skills support and advice - from academic writing and exam preparation to critical thinking and time management.

Why not book an appointment 

Can I use information from websites?

Can I use information from websites?

You may use information from internet websites, but beware! Anyone can write a web page. Therefore it is down to you to assess its quality and integrity.

What to look for when evaluating a website:

  • Scope - What is the purpose of the site - is it intended to educate, to be used for advertising or for entertainment? Read the "About us" or Frequently Asked Questions section to get some background.
  • Breadth - What aspects of the subject are covered? Is the resource focused on a narrow area or does it include related topics?
  • Depth - What is the level of detail provided about the subject? This may depend on the kind of audience for which the resource has been designed.
  • Content - Is the information fact or opinion? Does the site contain original information or simply links to other sites?
  • Completeness - How comprehensive is the website? Is it well researched with references? Is there any archival information?
  • Sources - Are sources for factual information listed so they can be verified?
  • Uniqueness- What advantages does this particular resource have?
  • Links - Are the links kept up to date? The proportion of links still working may help indicate how well a site is maintained.
  • Writing - Is the information free of grammatical, spelling and other errors?
  • Purpose - What is its purpose? Is it clearly stated? Is it objective or biased? Is the level of bias acceptable?
  • Authority - What is the authority, expertise or credentials of the author? Who is hosting the site? Check the web address for clues: e.g. is the code for a UK university which is likely to make this a trustworthy site. Government sites can be recognised by .gov which is once again a reliable source. Charities, societies, pressure groups often have .org in their address. Although reliable, please remember these sites are likely to be biased towards their cause. Commercial sites are likely to be .co or .com and information on these sites may not be as reliable, so be careful. A ~ sign in a web address usually indicates that it is a personal website, so care may need to be taken in using this material.
  • Currency - When was it last revised? Good sites should display a creation and revision date. These give an indication of the site's durability.
  • Connectivity - Do pages take a long time to load? Is the site stable over a period of time?

There are a number of websites that give guidance on evaluating web sites:

Evaluating Internet Research Sources by Robert Harris

You may also find these videos useful:

CRAAP test ( CurrencyRelevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose)


Effective Reading and Taking notes

Effective reading and taking notes

You may have already scanned through some of your material when you selected it but now you will want to read it in more depth, to take notes or even discard it from your research if you realise it is not as useful as you originally thought.

This stage can seem long and sometimes frustrating and de-motivating, but there are techniques which will help you to do this effectively.

Effective reading

To read effectively you will need to concentrate and develop your understanding of the material. Also, because of the amount of material you will have to examine it will help if you try to increase your speed. Additionally it may help if you ask yourself the following questions.

  • What do I already know?
  • How will I apply this to my assignment?
  • What new things do I want to learn?
  • Who has written this, what are they trying to say and to whom?

Effective reading will also help with effective note taking. Try the following process:

  • survey the chapter or article, note the title and subheadings, this will give you some idea of what it is about
  • question the author's main points
  • read, with the intention of answering your question
  • repeat in your own words every couple of pages what you have read
  • go back and review a chapter once you have read it

This will also help you to select appropriate material, so do not be afraid to discard any material that you think is irrelevant.

We have a guide to academic reading has links to additional resources which will help you.

Note Taking

Note taking helps to record what you have read and should also help you to remember what you have read. For an assignment your notes should be accurate and detailed and should help you to structure your assignment. Use your plan to guide you with your note taking, identify and record the main points and check your understanding of any words or concepts that you are unfamiliar with.

Try to structure your notes in a way that will assist you with writing your assignment. The most common types of note taking are:

  • Linear: where you use key words and phrases, for example, a heading is a key word or phrase and this is followed by bullet points or numbered points which give more detail
  • Patterns: where arrows/circles/lines connect key words and phrases, making a spreading pattern e.g. mind mapping, diagrams
  • Visual information: where it is difficult to record visual information in words, you may choose to make a sketch, copy the image or use an accurate reference so you can go back to it.

There are no set rules on how to structure your notes, and finding a method that bests suits you is important, you may even choose to use a combination of the methods listed above.

Selecting what to note can be the most difficult task, your effective reading skills should help you with this, but also look at how you want to structure your assignment and try to answer the following:

  • What is the argument I am trying to make?
  • What evidence do I need to support my argument?
  • What facts do I need to include and what is irrelevant?

As you are going along, make sure you note the source of your information, this is especially important if you are going to include some quotes e.g.:

  • Journal: page number, article title, author and journal title, volume, number and date
  • Book: page number, chapter title, author and book title and author/editor, publisher and publishers' location and date

If you do this whilst you are note taking your task will be far easier, as trying to relocate references once you start writing your assignment can be extremely frustrating and it may feel like you are starting your research all over again!

Also, try to store your notes in an organised way, for example in a file, on your computer or in a notebook. It may also be useful if you date your notes.

Our guide to Note-Taking has links to additional resources which will help you.

Making sure the information found fits your assignment

Make sure the information found fits your assignment

Whether the information you have is a book from a reading list, a journal article, a newspaper article or someone's web page you need to treat each with the same amount of caution when you use it.

Ask yourself:

  • is it relevant to the question I need to answer,
  • who wrote the piece,
  • who published it,
  • where did they get their information or data from,
  • is the data up to date,
  • is the work itself up-to-date,
  • is it referenced, that is, has the author said where they themselves obtained the information from,
  • is it well written,
  • who is it written for, is it intended to be read by academics or by the public
  • is it plausible,
  • do you think your tutor would think it is a sound piece of information?

For books (especially books on a reading list) you would probably say that is easy because they are published, well referenced and often recommended by a respected individual like a tutor or a librarian. It is not so easy for e-resources, especially webpages or journal/magazine articles, which any one can publish and you can find easily using Google.

For more information on how to judge the worth of journal or magazine articles have a look at the page What kind of information will help me? 

For more information on how to tackle web pages see the page Can I use information from websites? 



You can use this checklist to help you ensure you have completed the steps needed to understand how to undertake the research for your assignment effectively.

Item Yes No
Have I had a look in the Online Library?    
Do I know where to go if I need help?    
Have I checked the Academic Skills and Library Resources pages for information on my own subject area?    
Do I understand the importance of evaluating websites before using them for my assignment?    
Have I made a note of all the resources I used so that I can create a full bibliography for my assignment?