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NRS160 Research Skills Guide: Sources of Information


When searching for resources, you need to consider whether the type of resource you're using is appropriate to the assessment. For example, NRS160 Assessment 2 asks you to locate one additional peer-reviewed journal article, and notes that it must NOT be an opinion piece or editorial. So what's the difference?

Articles are fact-based, and result from original research, or an extensive review of existing literature. They focus on reporting information that can be supported by evidence, and are likely to have a large number of references.

Editorials and opinion pieces are more likely to focus on a writer's experience or opinion. They might be based on a small amount of research and have a handful of references, but they are less likely to be supported by evidence.

For more on how you can tell whether an article is of a high-quality and appropriate to use in your assessment, work through the Evaluate section of this guide and watch the Sources of information video at right.


There are many different types of resources which might offer information on the topic you are researching, but you need to consider whether the source is scholarly or authoritative enough for an academic assignment. (If in doubt, check with your lecturer or Librarian.)

Source type: Useful for:
Books and Textbooks
  • An overview, introduction, and/or background on a topic
  • In-depth information about a broad topic
Scholarly journal articles    
  • Accessing the latest research and ideas on your topic
  • Learning about varied perspectives on a topic
  • Examine a topic in very specific detail
  • Information that has been carefully checked and verified
Opinion pieces and editorials
  • Learning about a writer's experiences, and opinions on a topic
Trade or professional journal articles
  • Information geared towards practitioners in a discipline
  • Less formal language and structure than a scholarly article
  • An overview of emerging trends and discussions in practice
Grey literature
  • Anything not published by a commercial. academic publisher, including:
    • Government reports, standards and policies
    • Clinical trials
    • Statistics
    • Codes of conduct, ethics or best practice
  • Local, alternative perspectives on a topic
  • Current affairs and business information
  • Investigating public attitudes to topics and issues
  • Locating reports and documents from government, academic, or professional organisations
  • Finding background or introductory information
  • Familiarising yourself with the topic

Reference material

(dictionaries, encyclopaedias)

  • Finding factual and statistical information on a topic
  • An overview of a subject
  • Finding definitions
  • Using subject specific resources to decipher the "jargon" of your topic

The following pages will introduce you to three search tools to help you find resources for your assignments: Primo Search, library databases, and Google Scholar.

Sources of Information

Blogs and videos

When it comes to online blogs and videos, there is enormous variability in the quality of available information. It's useful to think of blogs and YouTube videos in the same way as editorials or opinion pieces.

Even if they involve a degree of research and have been created by a person or organisation with relevant expertise, there is a crucial step missing in their publication process. They are essentially self published, so they are not subject to the same level of scrutiny as textbooks and peer reviewed articles. The potential for bias or misinformation is therefore high, and they should not be used in your assessments.

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