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Sources of Information

Understanding how to find, assess and review different sources of information is a key skill at university but also in your life.

In this modern age we have access to more information than ever before, but this is not always a good thing as it means that you the consumer have to put in the effort to decide what information is worth consuming and justify why you selected it.

There are locations where this process is easier than others and these we tend to refer to as academic sources or academic texts. These tend to be journals, articles and books which have gone through a publication and editing process prior to the information being made available - therefore the majority of the work of assessing the quality of the source is done for you!

Depending on your course some use more traditional academic sources than others for various reasons so you need to learn the process of selecting and assessing. Stick with the pathway to learn how you can find, access and assess a wide variety of sources of information.

Please remember that whichever resources you use to back up the points you make in your work, they will need to be properly referenced so that you cannot be accused of plagiarising or copying someone else's work. If you have never referenced your sources before then please take look at RefZone to find out how you can learn to do this. Makea note of all the resources you use so that you can easily make a list of them as part of the work you hand in.

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.

Other resources you can use

Other resources you can use

In addition to the mainstream types of resource such as books and journals it may be that your assignment requires you to look at some specific specialist resources. There is a wide range of material you could use which is still valid to use in academic essays.

Law students may need to consider law reports and statutes, likewise film students may need to find music, TV scripts and still images. Business students may need company data or marketing reports while engineering students might need to access particular conference proceedings or British Standards. Health students might need to use evidence-based case studies.

If you do need this type of specialist material make sure that you find out where you can locate it either on the web or in print. You will not always find this specialised material as part of our normal resources. Although some can be accessed through our Library Search tools, you might also need to visit specific websites to find some of this material.

You may need to seek out your subject specialist librarian to ask for some help. Don't leave it until the last minute! find out who can help you at the library subject support page

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)