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Assignment and Study Help

Assignment and library skills

How to find different types of information

Getting started

Now that you have found your instruction/direction words, keywords and developed your search strategy, you need to determine what types of information you need, as well as how to locate, evaluate and retrieve that information.

Remember to record what you need, reference your work and ask a librarian if you need help. 

 

What are your information needs?

After you've analysed your topic and created search strategies, and before you begin looking for information, you will need to know what kind of information you require.

You may need to consider:

How much information do I need to answer the question or complete the task?

You will need more information for writing an assignment or report than for a 5 minute powerpoint presentation.

Do I need current or historical information?

If you are required to find current information the sources you need will be different to those needed for a history-based task. See the primary and secondary sources section at the bottom of the page for more information.

Do I need scholarly or popular information?

Assignment topics may require you to find scholarly, professional, academic or in-depth information, or you may need information from popular magazines, newspapers or websites.

 

Where can I find this information? Different types of resources provide different things: 

Books

  • vary in scope and depth, and usually contain chapters that look at a topic in greater detail.
  • make a good starting point for research.
  • are available in print and electronic (ebook) formats.

Reference (dictionaries, encyclopaedias)

  • provide an introduction to a topic.
  • reference sources are a good starting point when you are not familiar with the subject.

Databases

  • are collections of information and provide you with subject related information found in journals, conference papers, newspapers, reports, and other publications.
  • will provide access to either the full text of the publication or sometimes only a summary.

Journals

  • are publications that contain original research which has been written by subject experts - often peer reviewed by other experts
  • journal articles can be found both online, through databases and the Library catalogue, and within print journals in the Library.

Library catalogue

  • tells you what materials are held by that library.
  • shows you where to find books, journals, ebooks, and DVDs on a variety of subject areas.

Lecture notes

  •  information presented in class containing central concepts of the course ideas.

Newspapers

  • report on current news and events, and analysis and opinion.
  • can be biased in their opinion.
  • are published daily or weekly.

 

Primary and secondary resources 

You may also need to consider if you need to locate and use primary sources or secondary sources for your assessment, or your teacher might ask you to specifically find primary resources. These are often used in sciences and health fields, and while doing historical research. 

Primary Sources

Primary sources provide a first-hand account of an event or time period. They can often be created at the time of an event, but can also include subsequent information reporting on these events. An example of this would be a journal article that is reporting on original research.  

       Some examples include: 

  • records of research like clinical trials and experiment results 
  • letters, speeches and interviews that are created by the people directly involved 
  • newspaper articles about events/people as they happened e.g. an article about the sinking of the Titanic the day after it happened  
  • records e.g. birth certificates 
  • census data 

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources provide interpretation of information from primary sources.

In secondary sources the information from primary sources have been modified, selected or rearranged to suit an audience or purpose.

       Examples of secondary resources are:

  • textbooks
  • documentaries 
  • biographies 
  • journal articles that analyse other scholarly literature e.g. literature reviews 
  • educational material like fact sheets e.g. Clinical Overviews and Clinical Skills in ClinicalKey 

 

The best place to start looking for information is the TAFE Queensland Library. 

The library catalogue can be accessed both on and off campus. 

The catalogue contains the details and location of all resources (print and electronic) held by the library.

What is a catalogue?

It shows you what resources are held by a library – all the books, DVDs, CDs, magazines and many other types of resources such as databases and electronic/online books.

Where can I find the catalogue?

The library catalogue can be accessed both on and off campus.

On campus - each TAFE Queensland library has a computer you can use to access the catalogue.

Online - you can access the catalogue online anytime via the TAFE website in your region as long as you have an internet connection.

How do I log in to use the catalogue?

Log in to access online resources, including databases, streamed videos and e-books.

Students

Your Username/ID is your TAFE Queensland student number.

Your Password/PIN is your date of birth (ddmmyyyy) or your Connect password if you have already set this up.

How do I Search?

For a Basic search you can enter your topic words (keywords) in the search box and hit the Search button.

  • The search results will be displayed showing brief details, including location and availability details.
  • Click on a title to display full details including the location and availability details.
  • Click on the link to view electronic resources. You may need to be logged in depending on which resource you are accessing e.g. eBooks and databases.
  • To find items in your local TAFE library, take note of the Call Number as this is where you will find the item on the shelves.
  • Also note any Access Details to see if there are copies available for loan.

Once you have found your keywords you need to create a search query. A search query simply involves combining your keywords using Search Operators AND, OR, NOT when searching the library catalogue or databases. These search operators will help you to broaden or narrow your search.

And

  • Combines keywords in a search
  • Finds records containing all of the keywords
  • Produces fewer results
  • For example, searching using AND will provide results that contain both keywords: Carbon tax AND Australia
  • The AND operator will only find records that include all of the keywords. This will narrow your search
  • Use AND to combine your different keywords Carbon tax AND Australia


Or

  • Combines alternative keywords or synomyns
  • Finds records containing either or both keywords
  • Produces more results
  • For example, searching using OR will provide results that contain both keywords: Carbon tax OR Emissions tax
  • The OR operator will find records that include either keyword. This will broaden your search
  • Use OR to combine keywords with similar meaning (synonyms) and other alternative search keywords


Not

  • Use to exclude a keyword
  • Each record retrieved will contain the first but NOT the second keyword
  • For example, searching using NOT will provide results that contain the keyword Australia but excludes the keyword Australasia.
  • The NOT operator ensures records that include the first keyword, but not the second keyword are found
  • Use NOT with caution because you may inadvertently exclude useful material

There are numerous techniques you can use to make your search more effective in the Library catalogue. These techniques can often also be used in databases, websites and Google. Below we have outlined three of these - Phrase, Truncation & Wildcard searching.  
Phrase searching
  • A phrase search looks for a string of words next to each other exactly as typed.
  • Double quotation marks “ ” are usually required around the phrase.
  • For example: "working mothers"

Truncation

  • Truncation is used to search for plural terms or words with spelling variations. This will increase your search results.
  • The truncation symbol that is generally used is a *
  • Use a symbol to replace the ending of the search keyword. For example: Communicat*, will find Communicate, Communicates, Communication, Communicated, Communicating.
  • Other alternative symbols may be used such as ?, $, !, #

Wildcard

  • Using a wildcard is a search strategy that requires a symbol to substitute for one or more letters in order to search for spelling variations within a word.
  • Use wildcards to pick up words that have different American and English spellings. For example Colo?r will find Colour and Color

While you can find numerous books, readers, journals and magazines inside the Library, there are also a broad range of resources you can access through your computer anywhere and anytime. From e-Books, eJournals and a range of other resources though the Library's databses, you will be able to get reliable, relevant and accurate information through us. 

Journals are publications that are issued on a regular basis (eg. weekly, monthly, quarterly). There are many kinds of journals, from magazines to newspapers to scholarly journals. Scholarly journals are peer reviewed, which means that they read and checks by the author's peer academics to ensure the information is correct and of high standard. Relevant journals can be found through our databases. Use our guide below to find out how to find the right database, and resources, for your course. 

What's in a database?

A database is a collection of information. It can contain scholarly information like journal articles, ebooks, book chapters, and video clips. Databases can cover a broad range of subjects or be highly focused on a field like health. 

Why should I use a database?

Using databases allows you to:

  • Search quickly for information on a particular topic without having to spend a lot of time browsing through journals or books.
  • Find more dependable information than you would on the Internet. Articles in databases are likely to contain more reliable and more thoroughly researched information than material on the Internet.
How do I access databases? Our online databases can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days per week which means information is available to you at all times, even when the library is closed.

How do I choose the right database?

Choosing the right database to use can save you a lot of time.

Log in to browse and find databases relevant to YOUR studies.

Go to the Subject Guide relevant to your studies and find databases that have been recommended for your area of study

Need help?

While most databases have many common features and functions you may need to familiarize yourself with buttons or search options specific to the database you are using to get the best results and save time. Some easy ways to do this include:

  • Ask a Librarian - You can always ask a librarian for assistance in person, over the phone or via email. Contact details are available on the library website.
  • Online help - All databases have an online Help section. In most cases help is available from the initial screen, providing a general explanation of how the database works, search tips, and other useful features.

 

 

 

The library has many databases covering subjects taught at TAFE Queensland like nursing, business, hospitality, and trades. These how-to videos show how you can access some databases. 

What's in a database?

A database is a collection of information. It can contain scholarly information like journal articles, ebooks, book chapters, and video clips. Databases can cover a broad range of subjects or be highly focused on a field like health. 

Why should I use a database?

Using databases allows you to:

  • Search quickly for information on a particular topic without having to spend a lot of time browsing through journals or books.
  • Find more dependable information than you would on the Internet. Articles in databases are likely to contain more reliable and more thoroughly researched information than material on the Internet.
How do I access databases? Our online databases can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days per week which means information is available to you at all times, even when the library is closed.

How do I choose the right database?

Choosing the right database to use can save you a lot of time.

Log in to browse and find databases relevant to YOUR studies.

Go to the Subject Guide relevant to your studies and find databases that have been recommended for your area of study

Need help?

While most databases have many common features and functions you may need to familiarize yourself with buttons or search options specific to the database you are using to get the best results and save time. Some easy ways to do this include:

  • Ask a Librarian - You can always ask a librarian for assistance in person, over the phone or via email. Contact details are available on the library website.
  • Online help - All databases have an online Help section. In most cases help is available from the initial screen, providing a general explanation of how the database works, search tips, and other useful features.

Journals are publications issued on a regular basis (eg weekly, monthly, quarterly).  They are often referred to as serials, magazines or periodicals.

There are many different kinds of journals.  They can include popular magazines, trade publications, news magazines, newspapers and scholarly journals.  TAFE QLD Library has print and electronic journals, which can be accessed electronically in fulltext via database.

Some academic journals are peer reviewed. This means that before being published, each article published in the journal is read and checked by the author's peer academics. This is done to ensure that all the journal's published material is high quality and correct. 

 

What are journals used for?

Journals can be used when you are searching for current information, as journals are often the place where research is first published.  Information is usually published in journal articles before it becomes available in books or reference resources.

Journals can also be used for specific information that is more focussed to your topic eg: opinions and reviews on a particular issue or subject.

How to find journal articles on a specific topic

If you are looking for articles on a specific topic or by a particular author, the most efficient way to search is using a database. 

TAFE Queensland subscribes to a range of databases that can be accessed through the library webpage.  For more information on how to search databases, refer to the Database tab in this section.

How to find journal articles within the library

For those articles that are not available in fulltext on a database, you will need to note down the citation or details of the article.  This usually includes the author, article title, serial title, volume, issue number, year, and the page numbers.  You may already be familiar with these citations or references from your course reading lists.

The example below will help you to identify the parts of a citation:

Winder, Davey(Author) (2006)(Date) 'Internet reloaded',(Article Title) PC Authority,(Journal Title) May 2006,(Volume) (102)(Issue Number) pp24-28(page numbers)

From your citation, you will need to check whether the library holds the journal that your article is published in.  To do this, you will need to search the library catalogue for the journal title - not the article title!

For example, to find out if the library holds the journal above, you would search the catalogue using the title search option and type in PC Authority as your journal title.

TIP - Individual serial articles are not indexed in the library catalogue. This means you cannot search the catalogue using the 'article title' or the 'author's name'. You can only search the catalogue using the journal title.

To find peer reviewed articles using the library catalogue complete a search, then select the Advanced Search feature underneath the search bar and choose the peer review filter. 

How to find journal articles within the library

Locating journal articles is different from locating books.  The library catalogue will tell you whether the TAFE Queensland Libraries hold a particular journal, but it will not tell you what articles are in the journal.

Look at the holdings information in the catalogue record to ensure that the library holds the particular issue you want, then write down the call number to locate the journal on the shelves.

You can browse issues and select the year that you're interested in locating.

eJournals, or online magazines, can be viewed by logging into the library webpage using your student number (username) and your date of birth (password).  Search for the magazine you would like to read and click on the link to access content.

Evaluating information means you are making a judgment on the quality of the resources you have found for your assessment.

Not all information on a subject is true or relevant, particularly information found online, as there are very few barriers to posting online meaning people can spread false information easily. Using library resources is a good way to make sure you're getting reliable information for your assignments. 

It's best to evaluate your information resources before you start taking notes or writing your assessment to save time. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate information in the resources you find. 

Check 

  • Is it based on proven facts?
  • Is it published in a scholarly or peer-reviewed publication?
  • Is it comprehensive?
  • Is it easy to identification - whose website is it?
  • What is the quality of text - are there spelling or grammatical errors?
  • What is the quality of graphics - are they clear?
  • Are the links current - are there any broken links or errors?

Author

  • Who has written it - are they a reputable author?
  • Who published it? Is it a scholarly or peer reviewed publication?
  • What is the author's area of expertise?
  • Are they trying to sell you something - an idea or product?
  • Does the author/webmaster provide contact information?

Audience

Determining the intended audience can help decide the usefulness of information. Consider the following:

  • Is there jargon directed at specific groups?
  • Is the target audience clearly indicated? General public or academia?
  • Is the content light-hearted or serious?
  • Is the language level appropriate for your needs?
  • Does the page have a corporate sponsor?
  • Can you figure out what the site is about quickly?

Bias

  • Argumentative or persuasive?
  • Are both sides presented?
  • Facts or opinions?
  • Personal viewpoints expressed?
  • Are you being sold something?
  • Links to outside websites & their opinion?

Currency

  • Is the information current?
  • Are there newer editions of the information?
  • Check the dates of items listed in bibliographies or works cited in pages - if they are old then the information may no longer be current.
  • Can information be verified at other similar sites?
  • Are there contact details of page owner?

 

Video Tutorials

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