When you're looking for books, articles or other material for an assignment or dissertation, it helps to have a systematic approach.
- Determine the precise scope of your topic. Check in specialised dictionaries or encyclopaedias for the meanings of specialist terms or for a basic overview of the subject.
- Decide on the scope of your search; how much information do you need and what type?
- How far back in time do you want to go?
- Is your approach international or concentrated on this country?
- Are you prepared to visit other libraries and organisations to do further research?
- Analyse your chosen topic carefully. Ensure that you have covered all the aspects of it that you intend to include in your final work.
- Don't discount the fact that you may need to adjust your sights depending on how much - or how little - information you discover.
- Get an idea of the way your chosen topic is described in the literature or on the Internet. It's important to be aware of variant spellings or terms so that you can quickly home in on relevant material in books, databases, journals and other electronic sources including the Internet.
- Always critically evaluate the material that you find whether it is a book, an article or a website. Make sure it really is relevant and appropriate to your needs.
- Keep track of the books, articles, websites, etc. that you find by recording the references as you go*. It can be very difficult to retrace your steps at a later stage. This also applies to anything you request on interlibrary loan.
- Check with your tutor which method of citing references they want you to use. For more information, check our referencing guide.
*RefWorks is an excellent research management tool. Get started here.
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