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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

Books and ebooks

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. Once you have a broad overview, you can progress to more in-depth sources such as journal articles.

Print book collections are available in our campus libraries. Most books will be in the Lending Collection but there are also other subject collections such as Teaching Practice and Law. Books in the Library will have a number called the shelfmark on the spine. This indicates the location of that subject area in the collection and titles on the same topic will have the same or similar shelfmark. If a book is on loan to another user, or at another University of Cumbria library you can request the book.

The Library also has an extensive collection of ebooks which are digital versions of textbooks. Ebooks can be accessed from any location and many users can use them at once, making them a convenient way to do your course reading. For further information on the different collections available to you, please see our Ebooks page. For help on using ebooks, view our pages on off-campus access and troubleshooting. 

If there is a book that the Library doesn't have in stock, you can suggest it for purchase using the Get More Books scheme or request it via Inter-Library Loan.


Journals are academic or professional publications that are published periodically throughout the year. They contain research, academic discourse and features written by experts in their field and are key resources for your studies. 

The video below explains further about the contents of academic journals and why you should use them in your assignments:

What is a journal video, Video explaining what is a journal?

Articles published in journals give you:

  • Up-to-date information and cutting-edge research. 
  • Depth of detail not always found in books.
  • Wider reading and developing your knowledge of a subject.
  • Better marks in assignments.

Types of Journals

  • Academic journals These  journals feature articles reporting upon research projects. Articles appearing in academic journals will often be peer-reviewed - this means the information you find will often be more reliable as the information it contains will have been checked by other professionals in the field.
  • Professional journals These journals may be more practice oriented. They tend to be less formal and may include updates and news items as well as job adverts. There may also be some articles which have been peer-reviewed.

Journal Search is a directory of all the journals available at the University of Cumbria, both print and electronic format. Use this list to see if the Library subscribes to a particular journal, or to locate a specific article using a reference.


You can refer to websites in your assignments, but it is essential to evaluate the quality of the websites you choose to use.  Not all information online is trustworthy or suitable for academic use. This video explains the potential pitfalls of using web-based resources that are not suitable for use in an academic assignment.

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. 

The web is a useful source for grey literature such as information from government departments and professional bodies which can be very important depending on your discipline. It might also be relevant for you to use statistics and data for your studies but again, you need to obtain these from official sources. Our page on statistics lists some reputable sites for finding this kind of information. 

Your Library Subject Pages contain examples of good quality websites selected by your tutors and subject librarians. 

Searching for Literature

This section 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.  

With any of the resources described below, you may end up with a large number of hits. 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. 

For more strategic approach to finding literature, you could use our Search Form [Word] to help you build your search strategy. There are also a number of Searching tips you can use to help optimise your results. You can also sign up to our search skills webinar for help and guidance.

If you encounter any problems accessing these resources, please check our troubleshooting pages.

  • OneSearch

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

    OneSearch is your 24/7 gateway to online Library Resources


    • 390,000 ebooks (and growing daily)
    • Millions of quality online journal articles
    • Multimedia content and much moreā€¦


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

  • Eresources

    OneSearch and eresources can both be used for locating literature but they are two different types of resource. 

    OneSearch works by trawling a number of different collections subscribed to by the Library, known as eresources. However, these individual eresources can be also used as an alternative to OneSearch to locate literature including journal articles, conference proceedings and theses. Other available eresources are databases of images, videos and maps or resources to support your practice. 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 see which eresources are relevant for your course on our Library Subject Pages or you can browse the Eresources A-Z to explore our collections.

    Google Scholar  is another tool you can use to find academic literature. It provides details of journal articles, scientific papers, conference proceedings but it's not without its drawbacks. In some instances, you will find freely available access to the full text of a source but often you will encounter a paywall or the source is otherwise inaccessible. To help with this, 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.  

  • Library Subject Pages

    The Library Subject Pages give you access to tailored content for your course.  Watch the library subject page video to learn more. The resources on these pages help you to refine your searching making your research much more efficient.   Depending on your topic, it is worth considering whether it would be useful to consult other subject pages in addition to your own.  You will often find that a topic can be approached from multiple perspectives, and to show awareness of this will help you to develop a more critical understanding. 


  • Reading Lists

    Each module you study at University will have its own reading list which contain materials your tutors will expect you to read outside your lectures. The items on your reading lists will be separated into two categories:

    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 your and to develop your critical analysis of the subjects you study.

    You can find your module reading lists on the University's online reading list system called OneList and from your module Blackboard site.

    Tips for reading beyond your Reading Lists: 

    • Use the Library Subject Pages to discover and search subject specific eresources. These will give you access to specialised journal articles, theses; and visual sources.  
    • Browse books on the shelves that have a similar classmark 
    • OneSearch has a Virtual Browse tool (at the end of the page) to show you other titles with a similar classmark 
    • See which other titles an author on your reading list has written by looking up one of their books in OneSearch. In the Details section, click on the author's name and it will display their other publications. You can also use Google Scholar to locate other materials written by a specific author.
  • 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?
    • See the Website section above for more information on evaluating websites.  
    • Check out the critical reading page to step up your evaluating skills.

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

    Information Hierarchy, Diagram of Information hierachy

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