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When reading around your subject, it's really important to use academic-level resources and not just websites you've found through Google. All of your reference lists should show that you have drawn information and ideas from a range of sources including books, journal articles and appropriate websites. 

Remember all information sources must be carefully evaluated before you use them and then cited and referenced correctly in your assignments.

This page introduces you to essential resources for developing your subject knowledge and producing assignments, as well as giving some pointers on judging the quality of the sources you use.

In addition to the information and resources on this page, you can also discover more about finding the right information for your studies via our Library and Academic Skills webinars:

Searching Skills Webinars 


  • Key resources

    Key Resources

    Your lecturers will look for evidence that you have read widely on your subject from a variety of sources. A glance at your reference list will reveal the range and quality of the sources you have used, but also whether you've been drawing ideas from a range of source types. This is because books, journal articles and websites serve different purposes in the world of academic literature as they each treat the subject matter differently in terms of scope, depth and focus.  

    Source type Using these sources in your assignment
    Books  Books are your starting point when reading about a new topic. They tend to give you an overview of the subject and introduce you to key theories, concepts and background information. This gives you the grounding in the topic area to aid you when you read source types that are more in-depth. Always look for the most recent edition to ensure you're using up-to-date content. Check your reading lists for the essential texts you should consult as well as suggested further reading. 

    Journal articles are the primary form of scholarly and research communication. Articles will contains research reports or critical commentary on current issues in the field. As such, journal articles aid your critical analysis by providing research evidence or introducing you to a range of perspectives or angles on your topic. Most academic journal articles will have been subject to a peer review where experts in the field scrutinise the quality of the article before it's accepted for publication. Authors of journal articles tend to assume you have some prior knowledge of the subject matter and will analyse topics in much greater depth than you will find in books. Watch this video to learn more about journals and their use in assignments.

    Websites Be wary of using websites that would not be deemed suitable for use in university assignments such as commercial sites (.com or or those aimed at non-specialist audiences. To help you know what to look for when evaluating websites, use a tool such as REVIEW.pdf to check the reliability and suitability of online content. Websites you might use include government departments or professional associations that will give you access to policy, guidelines, reports and other types of information. Your Library Subject Page includes a list of reputable websites in your field.
  • Where to search

    The table below explains the different routes you can take to locate relevant books, ebooks and journal articles on a specific subject, such as when searching for sources for a particular assignment.  

    Reading Lists

    Each module you study at University will have its own reading list which contain materials your tutors expect you to read outside your lectures. You can find your module reading lists on the University's online reading list system called OneList and as a link on your module Blackboard site.

    The items on your reading list wil usually be listed as either:

    Essential - You will be expected to read this over the course of your module and use it in your assignments.

    Recommended - These items have been selected to help you deepen your knowledge of the topics in the module.

    However, you will be expected to read beyond your reading lists to broaden and develop your critical analysis of the subjects you study.


    OneSearch brings the majority of books, ebooks, journal articles and other materials from the Library's collections together in a single search making finding information for your assignments easier and quicker.


    • 390,000 ebooks (and growing daily)
    • Millions of quality online journal articles
    • Multimedia content and much more…

    Please use the guides, tips and videos created to help you get the most out of using OneSearch.


    OneSearch draws from different collections subscribed to by the Library known as eresources, but these eresources can also be searched individually. As you progress through your course you may find it more helpful to use individual eresources as you are better able to tailor your searching for optimum results.

    You can browse a full list of our eresources using the Eresources A-Z but your Library Subject Page will list the eresources that are most relevant for your course. Watch the library subject page video to learn more. Depending on your topic, it might be useful to check other subject pages in addition to your own to consider multiple perspectives and help develop a more critical understanding. 

    Google Scholar

    Google Scholar is another tool you can use to find academic literature. It provides details of journal articles, scientific papers, conference proceedings and Open Access Resources. But it's not without its drawbacks as you may encounter a paywall or the source is otherwise inaccessible. It can be very difficult to filter your results to drill down to the most relevant material.

    To help you bypass paywalls or log in screens, you can change the settings in Google Scholar to link to the full text of an article if it's subscribed to by the Library.  


  • Search skills

    Refining your search

    With any of the resources described in the section above, you may end up with a large number of hits which students can find overwhelming. It is important to think about how you will refine your search results. For example you can refine by date of publication, subject area and country of origin.  Although the interfaces of different resources will vary, most will have similar tools for controlling your search results. A good tip is to run some test searches to build your confidence in using these resources. 

    To further optimise your results, there are also a number of Searching tips you can use. The video below explains how to use these tips in your search:

    Search skills,

    For more strategic approach to finding literature, you could use our Search Form to help you build your search strategy. You can sign up to our search skills webinar for further help and guidance.

    If you encounter any problems accessing these resources or locating the full text of an article, please check our troubleshooting pages.

    Saved searches and alerts

    Alerts can be set up to automatically re-run your searches within OneSearch and any of the Library's eresources. This way you can make sure you don’t miss any up to the minute articles which is particularly important if you are conducting a literature review. You can also set up alerts to send you the contents page of most journals as they are published.

    You can use the following resources to set up alerts:

    • Discovery services such as OneSearch allow you to set up search alerts.
    • JournalTOCs lets you view the table of contents of current journal issues.  You can also set up an alert to see when a new issue of a journal has been published.
    • Some individual journals provide an alert service for new issues.
  • Evaluating sources

    Not all sources are considered equal and it will depend on your subject and assignment as to what kind of information is appropriate for your work. Generally you want "academic" sources but a blog by a leading expert in the field might be appropriate too. You need to develop an awareness of the purpose and quality of the information you are using.

    A useful tool is a quick WWWW approach.

    WHO Who is the author and what is their credibility?  Academic/expert <--> Individual/journalist
    WHERE Where is it published?  In a peer reviewed journal <--> .com or website?
    WHAT What kind of information and is it relevant?  Research/ commentary/ standards
    WHEN Is it current?

    The Website Evaluation Ticklist will help you appraise online content more closely. You can also check out the critical reading page to step up your evaluating skills.

    Hierarchy of Evidence

    This is one version of a Hierarchy of Evidence  but you will find many others online.  Used mainly by health subjects, it is still a useful visual for evaluating the quality of research evidence.

    Hierarchy of evidence, Hierarchy of evidence


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