Finding sources and Referencing.
One of the core skills needed as a university student is a knowledge of how to conduct a literature search i.e. how to find scholarly material on your topic.
You will need to do a literature search in order to write research essays, literature reviews, and other written assessment tasks. The relevant material may include books, journal articles (both hard copy and online), web sites, and audio and visual works.
Accessing this wide range of material requires having a thorough knowledge of how library systems and online search engines work.
Read about how to start your search, evaluate the sources you find, and document them effectively.
The first step in undertaking a comprehensive search is to access the following resources:
- Consult reading lists and recommended further reading, follow up texts mentioned in lectures, tutorials, your text books or in your Readers.
- Library catalogues and databases. The library catalogue lists print references; and multi-database tools like Discovery provide online access to journal articles. For help, ask Staff at the Library Information desk, or see the LibGuides for Discovery.
- Workshops. The library holds regular information skills sessions in effective data searching.
- Visit the library in person and browse through the shelves near your key texts. Look at the table of contents, index, and bibliography for key words, and other relevant reading.
- Internet search engines. Not everything you find on the web is a credible or scholarly source, but increasingly, you can use internet search engines such as Google Scholar to access academic resources.
The relevance, age, and credibility of your research material are important. Aim to find:
- books from recognised publishers,
- articles from peer-reviewed journals, and
- current information.
Critically evaluate your material by considering the author’s
- provided evidence
- approach, methodology, and sources, and
- argument (or position on an issue).
Please note that although it can be easy to obtain information on a topic from the web, this material is often not produced by experts and may therefore lack academic credibility.
It is important that you accurately record the bibliographical details of your sources of information. This will make it easier to re-access important material and to create your bibliography.
Documenting your sources will also ensure that you avoid inadvertent plagiarism. You must carefully document direct quotations and distinguish them clearly from your paraphrased notes. Both direct quotations and the paraphrased ideas of others must be acknowledged.
RefWorks is a web-based reference management program suitable for undergraduates. It is free to University of Melbourne students.
If you are writing a longer paper, such as a thesis, EndNote is probably more suitable to help you manage your larger bibliography. It can also help you create a searchable data-bank of notes. It is free to University of Melbourne students.