Preparing for Academic Writing & Speaking

Doing the research

Selecting sources

When you have understood the task and done some reading to find out what has been published in your field of study, you will need to decide which sources are useful for your work.

You do not have time to read everything, so you need to decide whether a particular source may be useful.

The first thing to do is to try to find books that are exactly the same as your topic. Use your library on-line catalogue for this. Encyclopaedias, indexes, bibliographies and other databases can help you. See Preparing Research Sources

When you have some book titles, look carefully at the titles of the books.

Exercise

Exercise 1

Once you have found these books, look for those which deal with deal with the topic in general. Look quickly at the Index to see if there are any direct references to your topic. Look through the Contents page to see if there are any chapters which concentrate on your subject? Look through the references list to see if you can find any books or articles that might be useful. Read the Introduction.

If there are relevant sections in the book, look for the date of publication to see if it is current. It is also a good idea to look for information on the author to see if he or she is an authority on the subject.  Look to see if the book is regularly cited elsewhere. These are all good indicators that the book will be relevant for you.

Use the various bibliographical references such as  indexes, abstracts, bibliographies as well as the relevant on-line databases to find useful journal articles. Look at journals that you have seen cited in the books that you have read. As with books, the first thing to do is to try to find articles that are exactly the same as your topic. Try a range of keywords to search for your topic. When you have found articles that look relevant, read the abstract. If it looks interesting read the introduction and the conclusion. If necessary, read the whole article.

Exercise

Exercise 2

If there are relevant sections in the journals, look for the date of publication to see if it is current. It is also a good idea to look for information on the author to see if he or she is an authority on the subject.  Look to see if the article or author is regularly cited elsewhere. These are all good indicators that the article will be relevant for you.

Exercises

Exercise: Selecting sources 1

Exercise: Selecting sources 2