Think about your sources

You will need to use a range of different information sources when researching your topic. Different sources provide different types of information and can be used for different purposes.

An introduction to sources at university

Watch this video to find out about the types of sources you will be using at university.

Check out the section on Finding Information to find out more about some of the different types.



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Online research

You have a choice of using resources freely available on the web or library resources for your research.

Ideally, you will use a combination of both and the balance will depend on the type of assignment you have been set.

Benefits of the web


  • Familiar and comfortable
  • Search engines are very powerful and generally bring back the results you expect
  • May provide a huge number of results
  • 'Real time' and new information

Benefits of library resources


  • Scholarly material - your lecturers may have asked you for this
  • Subject specific databases bring back more relevant results
  • You know when it was written, who wrote it and where it was published
  • You can see if it's peer reviewed.
  • May provide citation information to help with referencing

Primary and secondary sources

You may be required to use primary or secondary sources or both.

This video explains the difference.


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Primary sources

A primary source is a description of an event by an eye-witness, which could be:

  • letters
  • diary or blog
  • autobiography or memoir
  • creative art works, such as literature or photography
  • research data

Secondary sources

A secondary source is an interpretation or analysis of a primary source and could be:

  • news or magazine articles
  • journal articles
  • textbooks and encyclopedia

Remember - these can also be primary sources so you need to look for interpretation and analysis.

Always think critically about your sources

  • How will your findings feed into and help your research?

  • Who wrote it and why, what is their background?

  • Is there a research methodology?