What will you learn?

💡Academic tasks rely on scholarly evidence, making the acquisition of pertinent information a crucial skill to cultivate during your university studies. Upon finishing this module, you should possess the confidence to: 

1. Comprehend the diverse sources of information commonly employed in assignments.
2. Discern essential concepts from an assignment question and construct a proficient search strategy. 
3. Recognize the various search tools at your disposal and determine which ones are suitable for locating specific types of information.

What constitutes scholarly sources in academic research? 

Academic assignments often necessitate the use of scholarly sources, also referred to as academic sources. These encompass thoroughly researched publications authored by academics, researchers, and subject matter experts within a specific field of study. These sources aim to disseminate recent research findings, theories, analyses, and insights, or to offer concise summaries of the current state of knowledge in the respective field.

How do I determine the sources needed for my assignment?

Once you have a clear understanding of your assignment’s requirements, pay attention to any specific instructions guiding your source selection. These instructions will specify the types of sources deemed appropriate for your assignment and will guide your search for relevant resources. Various resource types may be specified for assignment research, and for additional source categories such as standards, legal materials, statistics, and drug resources, refer to the section on Specific Resources.

Source Types: Understanding Varied Information Channels

Search strategy

A Guide to Identifying and Using Keywords:

Understand Your Research Topic:
Begin by comprehensively understanding your research topic. Break it down into key concepts and components. These are the building blocks that will guide your keyword selection.
Identify Synonyms and Related Terms:
Expand your keyword list by considering synonyms and related terms for each key concept. Different authors and sources may use varied terminology to describe the same idea. Including synonyms broadens your search and captures diverse perspectives.
Utilise Subject Headings:
Explore the use of subject headings or controlled vocabulary specific to your subject area. Many databases and library catalogues use standardised terms to categorise content. Incorporating these subject headings into your search can enhance precision.
Analyse Key Phrases:
In addition to single-word keywords, identify key phrases that encapsulate the essence of your research. Key phrases can be particularly useful when searching for specific concepts or expressions.
Be Mindful of Variations:
Consider variations in spelling, word forms, and language nuances. For instance, if your research involves a concept that may be spelled differently in British and American English, include both versions to ensure comprehensive results.
Use Boolean Operators:
Employ Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to refine your search. Combine keywords strategically to narrow or broaden your results. “AND” narrows the search by requiring all terms to be present, “OR” broadens it by including any of the terms, and “NOT” excludes specific terms.
Keep an Eye on Context:
Consider the context in which your keywords are used. A word may have different meanings in various contexts. Adjust your search strategy accordingly to ensure relevance.
Experiment with Search Tools:
Experiment with different search tools and databases. Each platform may have unique features or search algorithms. Familiarise yourself with advanced search options and use them to tailor your searches.
Refine and Iterate:
As you begin reviewing search results, be prepared to refine your keywords based on the outcomes. Assess the relevance of the articles or sources you find and adjust your search terms accordingly.

Mastering Alternative Terms in Research

Mastering alternative terms in academic research is crucial for efficient information retrieval. Understand your topic, brainstorm synonyms, explore related fields, and employ Boolean operators. Stay updated on emerging terminology and consult experts for valuable insights to enhance research depth and efficiency.

Search tool

Catalogue System:

The catalogue system serves as a search tool designed to help you locate resources within the library’s extensive collection. This includes records for physical materials, such as books available within the library premises, and direct links to online content hosted in the library’s databases. Similar to popular search engines, the catalog system allows for both precise searches, such as looking up a textbook by its title, and broader searches using keywords. Whether you have a specific item in mind or are exploring a broader topic, the catalogue system streamlines the search process for efficient resource discovery.

Library databases:

Online library databases serve as virtual repositories, offering a user-friendly search platform for accessing a variety of resources, including ebooks, journal articles, newspaper articles, theses, videos, and more. These databases are equipped with robust search functionalities and refining options, empowering users to conduct focused searches.

Explore the capabilities of library databases by watching a brief video on navigating the ProQuest database. Learn effective search techniques involving alternative keywords (utilising AND/OR), truncation, and phrase searching to enhance your research skills and maximise the utility of these valuable online collections.

The Internet:

Exploring the Internet through search engines like Google is a valuable step in your research journey. Here’s how you can leverage it:

  • Uncover Background Information:
    • Utilise search engines to unearth foundational information related to your topic. This initial exploration aids in developing a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.
  • Identify Keywords:
    • Google searches help identify relevant keywords crucial for refining your search. This step is instrumental in crafting targeted queries and improving the precision of your results.
  • Access Diverse Materials:
    • Expand your search beyond academic databases by using search engines. This approach allows you to discover materials like reports and publicly available documents that might not be readily found in traditional academic repositories.

However, exercise caution and scrutiny when incorporating information into your assignment. Evaluate each source for bias, accuracy, and appropriateness to ensure the reliability of your findings.

Pro Tips for Effective Google Searches

Utilise Boolean Operators (AND, OR):
Employ AND to narrow down your results and OR to broaden them. This strategic use enhances the relevance of your findings.
Master Phrase Searching:
Enclose your search terms in quotation marks for precise phrase matching. This is particularly useful when seeking exact expressions or titles.
Leverage Truncation:
Apply truncation, denoted by an asterisk (*), to capture variations of a word and expand your search scope.

Searching with specific types if websites:

When conducting a Google search, you’re navigating the vast expanse of the freely accessible internet, which may not be the most efficient method for targeted information retrieval. For instance, suppose you’re seeking data on the prevalence of measles in Australia, with a specific interest in government-provided information. A standard search might yield results from various sources like newspapers, organizations, and blogs. However, refining your search to “prevalence measles site:gov.au” ensures that your results exclusively originate from Australian government websites.

Here’s a helpful tip: Input your keywords, followed by “site:” and then specify the type of website you want to focus on.

Different website types include:

  • “.edu” denotes pages created by educational institutions.
  • “.gov” signifies content generated by government departments or bodies.
  • “.org,” “.com,” or “.co” are associated with sites designed for marketing purposes, including news sites and organizational websites. Note that “.org” does not guarantee quality, as it lacks specific requirements for web address creation.
  • Country codes allow you to narrow your search to sites published within a particular geographical area.

Evaluating Internet Sources for Academic Research:

When using Internet sources for academic work, beware of their dynamic nature, which can change rapidly. Opt for more stable resources like reports in PDF format for reliability. Use “filetype:” searches to find credible sources and understand website domains (.edu, .gov, .org, .com, .co) for assessing credibility. Incorporating country codes in searches enhances precision. These strategies ensure trustworthy sources for academic purposes.

Different types of resources


Curtin University. (n.d.). Library | Curtin University, Perth, Australia. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from https://www.curtin.edu.au/library/

Badke, W. B. (2008). Research strategies: Finding your way through the information (3rd Edition). iUniverse. https://archive.org/details/researchstrategi00will

Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., Williams, J. M., Bizup, J., & FitzGerald, W. T. (2003). The Craft of Reseach (2nd edition). THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS.

Hartman, K. (Karen P. ). (2010). Searching & researching on the Internet and the World Wide Web. Sherwood, OR : Franklin, Beedle & Associates. http://archive.org/details/searchingresearc0000hart


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