This guide to basic assignment research outlines a simple but effective approach to finding information for your assignment. It is based on the resources described elsewhere in this subject guide and on the UC Library web site. Depending on your topic and your level of study, you may need to rearrange or review these steps where necessary
Check the rest of this subject guide carefully for additional subject resources and, where available, appropriate topic guides
It might seem obvious, but the first step is to make sure you understand the topic.
1) Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question to help you develop a search strategy.
2) Work out why the topic is being been offered. Is it:
controversial ? complicated? what makes the topic interesting?
Use dictionaries and encyclopaedias to find definitions and background information. Articles from specialized subject encyclopedias are authoritative and often substantial
If you do not understand what you have to do for an assignment, ask your lecturer, your tutor or someone at the Pokapū Pūkenga Ako | Academic Skills Centre.
Search the Library catalogue:
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If you can’t find the kind of information you want on these databases, ask a subject librarian – we can help you choose the right database and the right keywords to use.
The internet has a lot of information, but not all of it is useful or reliable. Consider the source of the page. Suitable sources are
Use the Advanced Search features of Google to restrict your search to results from more reputable sources.
Some sites for Philosophy can be found here.
Do not use articles directly from Wikipedia, although you can use its content (e.g. keywords or phrases) to search for other sources.
Use Google Scholar to find academically reliable journal articles. Adjust the Scholar Preference to recognise the University of Canterbury, and you will get full text whenever it is available through our library subscriptions.
For information on evaluating websites, see
Learning how to determine the relevance and authority of a given resource for your research is one of the core skills of the research process.
For information on analysing sources, see
Look professional and keep out of trouble by citing all the sources of information you use in your essay, using a recognised referencing style
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