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Assignment and Study Help

Assignment and library skills

How to find different types of information

This section discusses researching and evaluating information. It is important to learn how to research, as you will need reliable academic information to inform your assignment writing. If you do not research, you cannot be certain your work is correct. If you do not provide evidence for any claims you make, your teacher may mark you down.

You should not use any information you find without analysing it. If you use outdated or non-scholarly information you risk being incorrect. Evaluating information will help you decide whether you should use it or not.

Learning how to research and evaluate information is also valuable if you do any further study, and in your daily life as it can help with things like spotting scams.

Once you have found your keywords you can 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.


  • 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

Circles with the word carbon tax AND Australia merging in a Venn diagram


  • 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

Circles reading carbon tax OR emissions tax merging in a Venn diagram


  • 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

Circles reading Australia NOT Australasia overlapping but not merging

There are many 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. This information can also be found in the Help section to the top right hand side of the Library website when you have performed a search. 
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 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 ?, $, !, #


  • 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

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 and eBooks

  • 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.


  • 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.


  • are publications that contain original research which has been written by subject experts - often peer reviewed by other experts
  • journal articles can be found online through databases and the Library catalogues, and Google Scholar.

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/Class PowerPoint slides

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


  • report on current news and events, and analysis and opinion.
  • can be biased in their opinion.
  • are published daily or weekly.
  • can be found online or through library databases 
Grey literature 
  • information that has not been published through traditional commercial methods like a book or journal.
  • can be used as an academic source if it is created by reliable and authoritative sources such as governments, academics, business and industry.
  • can be found in physical formats or online in forms like reports, guidelines, dissertations, newsletters, and trade papers.
  • defined by the Australian Burea of Statistics (n.d., para 1.), “A statistic is a value that has been produced from a data collection, such as a summary measure, an estimate or projection. Statistical information is data that has been organised to serve a useful purpose.
  • can be found on government websites such as the ABS website.
  • organisations such as the UN also collect statistical information about countries.
Conference papers 
  • created to present information at a conference
  • may be collected and published officially, or found online
  • often highly specialised to a subject, and commonly outlines research the author has undertaken
  • can have an outline similar to a journal article


Primary and secondary resources 

You may also need to locate and use primary sources or secondary sources for your assessment. Your teacher might ask you to find primary resources. 

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 

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (n.d.). Statistical language - What are statistics?,measure%2C%20an%20estimate%20or%20projection.

The best place to start looking for information is the TAFE Queensland Library, as it contains the academic and reliable information you need. 

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


Your Username/ID is

Your Password/PIN is your Connect password.

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.

Please note these show outdated ways of logging in. Your username is and your password is your Connect password. 

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.

In an academic context, journals are publications issued on a regular basis (eg weekly, monthly, quarterly).  They can also be referred to as serials, magazines or periodicals. There are many different kinds of journals. 


TAFE QLD Library has a small amount of physical journals which can be found at some campus libraries, and electronic journals which can be accessed electronically via database or library catalogue. 


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 before it becomes available in books or reference resources.

Journals can also be used for specific information that is more focused 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, try searching using a subject specific database e.g. CINAHL for medical journal articles. Your subject guide may recommend certain ones. Use the full text filter to ensure you are able to read the whole article.

TAFE Queensland subscribes to a range of databases that can be accessed here.  Read the description of each to understand what it contains. For more information on how to search databases, refer to the Database tab in this section. 

How to find a physical journal article 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.

Using Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a search engine for academic information and is a useful research tool. It quickly searches scholarly literature like journal articles, conference papers, book chapters, patents, citations and case law. Some of these sources are not always free to read. Connecting Google Scholar to the TAFE Queensland Library will let you read free, full text articles from the library’s catalogue.

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to Google Scholar | Settings | Library Links
  2. Search for TAFE Queensland Library or whichever other library you are a member of such as Federation University
  3. Tick TAFE Queensland and/or Federation University then click save

How to video tutorials can be found here, including connecting Google Scholar to TAFE Queensland Library. Google Scholar search tips are found here.

TIP: Log in and create a Google Scholar account if you don't have one. Ensure you have set your profile settings to include TAFE Queensland Library. That way all searches will pick up our library resources as well!


Google Advanced Search 

Just googling answers can lead to too many results that may not be reliable and academic. Google’s advanced search feature can be used to refine searches to find relevant and scholarly information. Features include:

  • find information from websites with a particular domain. It is best to use educational (.edu) and government (.gov) websites.  
  • Can help you restrict your search to certain file types e.g. PDFs or copyright free images.
  • Search by time of update.
  • Search on website’s country of origin.

For a search demonstration, see this helpful video. 

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 accurate 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 ensure you are using reliable and appropriate information for your assignments. 

Evaluate your information resources before you start taking notes or writing your assessment to save time. Use the CRAAP method to evaluate information in the resources you find. 

  • Is the information current? Best practice is to use information from the last five years. 
  • 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?


  • 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?


  • 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?
  • Is it based on proven facts?
  • Does the author provide evidence such as reference for what they are saying?
  • Is it published in a scholarly or peer-reviewed publication?
  • Is it comprehensive?
  • 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?
  • Can you compare what the source is saying with another source on the same subject? 


  • Is it argumentative or persuasive?
  • Are both sides presented?
  • Does it provide facts or opinions? Find out how to tell the difference here.
  • Are personal viewpoints being expressed?
  • Are you being sold something?
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