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Ornithology Research Skills Guide: Sources of Information


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.)

Source type*: Use this source to:
  • Get an overview, introduction, and/or background on a topic
  • Get in-depth information about a broad topic
Journal article   
  • Access the latest research and ideas on your topic
  • Learn about varied perspectives on a topic
  • Examine a topic in very specific detail
  • Get the latest current affairs and business information
  • Investigate public attitudes to topics and issues
  • Locate reports and documents from government, academic, or professional organisations
  • Find background or introductory information
  • Familiarise yourself with the topic

Reference material

(dictionaries, encyclopaedias)

  • Find factual and statistical information on a topic
  • Get an overview of a subject
  • Find definitions
  • Use subject specific resources to decipher the "jargon" of your topic

*Source type includes both hard copy and online versions of the source (for example, books includes both hard copy books and ebooks

The following pages will introduce you to three common search tools to help you find resources for your assignments.

Primo Search

Sources of Information

Primary literature

What is Primary Literature?

In the sciences, primary literature presents the original research and/or new scientific discoveries. It often includes analysis of data collected in the field/laboratory.

Examples of primary sources are:

  • Journal articles
  • Technical reports
  • Thesis & dissertations
  • Conference papers and proceedings
  • Patents
  • Lab or field notes (this may not be published)
  • Specimens

How to identify primary literature in the sciences

Primary literature is mostly published as peer-review journal articles. However, this doesn't mean all journal articles are primary sources. Primary articles will describe one consistent research project or study. Primary literature will follow common components in the article, that includes:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods/Materials
  • Results
  • Discussions
  • Conclusion
  • References

Secondary literature, on the other hand, consists of interpretations and evaluations that derived from or refer to the primary literature, such as systematic reviews or meta-analysis.

Try it now

In the screen, to the left, you will see a Primo Search results screen demonstrating a variety of resource types.

Notice how the different icons indicate what sort of resource it is?

Try accessing some of the resources by clicking the Available Online and pay attention to the different type of information in each.

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