Preparing for Academic Writing & Speaking

Doing the research

When you have understood the task and know what you are expected to write or speak about, you will almost certainly need to do some reserachto find out what has been published in your field of study. It is unusual in higher education to be expexcted to write something from what you already know - except in exams.

It is most unlikely that you will find the information you need about your topic in just one specific section of the library. You need to think and look as widely as you can about possible subject areas that may be relevant to your topic.

Many sources are available in several formats - as hard copy, on CD-ROM, and on-line via the Internet. In the last few years there has been a great increase in the amount of information that can be found on-line. Using the Internet, it is possible to search for the details of books, journal articles and conference proceedings, as well as for data such as statistics, maps, diagrams and so on. The number of periodical titles that you are able to access on-line is growing rapidly. Internet gateways and subject databases can  also be good starting points for your research.

You will probably start by looking at secondary sources, for example dictionaries, encyclopaedias, bibliographies, indexes and abstracts that you can use to help you to find the primary sources - the full text of articles, books, government and company reports, etc. that you need to read for your essay.

Use the library computer catalogue to find useful material for your topic. Choose the: Search the Catalogue option on the main menu.

Start with the Keyword option and identify the names and call numbers (see Dewey for more information) of the sections of the library that might hold useful material for your topic.

Use the Author or Title search option on the Search the Catalogue menu of the terminal for the details and class numbers of some relevant books and journals.

If you need more information from the library, look for Information Databases and Catalogues for your subject.