Where to search

You will need to find information for different purposes throughout the course of your studies. Where you should look depends on the kind of information you’re looking for, and the purpose you need it for; see Understanding what information you need for guidance on how to determine your needs.

This section provides an overview of where you can find the following types of information:

Throughout this tutorial, we will refer to three main places to access information:

  • Library Search (or just “Search”): Search is a platform that allows you to search across many of the online and all of the physical collections that the Library provides. If you want to use physical items from the library, you can find their location by looking them up in Search.
  • Subject guides: Subject guides are webpages created by librarians to help you quickly find a range of resources relevant to your discipline or course area, including key information sources and specialist databases for in-depth research.
  • Databases: Many resources can only be accessed through specialised databases. These databases may also have more sophisticated or discipline-specific search capabilities. Some databases cover specific subject areas, while others are multidisciplinary. Suggested databases for your area can be found through Subject guides.

For advice on how to structure your search once you’ve decided on a place to look, see How to search.

Background reading

Before starting your assignment research, background reading is often necessary to gain an understanding of the concepts, terminology and context relevant to your topic.

Sources commonly used for background reading include:

  • textbooks
  • reference works, such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, glossaries or handbooks
  • any resources recommended by your lecturers.

There are a number of places where you can find such sources:

Academic sources

At university, you are usually required to use academic sources for your assignments and research. These sources are written by experts for others working or studying in their field, and can include:

  • peer reviewed journal articles
  • other research papers
  • some books.

Good places to find these sources are:

Grey literature

"Grey literature" refers to sources of information other than "traditional" forms of publication like books and journal articles. Grey literature can include:

  • documents from government or non-government organisations
  • professional guidelines
  • patents
  • a wide variety of other materials.

The diverse nature of grey literature means it can be found in many different places, but some good places to look are:

For more detail on what grey literature is and how to find it, see the Grey Literature Subject guide.

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Discipline-specific resource types

Some disciplines use special types of resources, like case reports and legislation for Law, scores for Music, or standards for Engineering.

These resources may only be available through certain databases, or may require specific search methods to find. Check the Subject guide for your subject area or your unit’s Moodle site for guidance on appropriate places to find such resources.

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Revision material

To revise for exams, tests and similar assessments, you will often be looking for similar material as you would for background reading (textbooks, reference works such as encyclopedias, and recommended readings). You should also use your own notes, lecture materials, and practice exams or questions if they are available.

Some places you could look for revision material are:


  • Where you should search depends on the kind of information you are looking for
  • Three common ways to find information are:
  • Resources for background reading, such as textbooks or reference works, may be found through:
  • Academic sources, such as peer reviewed articles or scholarly books, may be found through:
  • Grey literature, such as working papers, government documents, or professional guidelines, can be found through:
  • Discipline-specific resource types can be found in many different places, depending on what you’re studying. Check the Subject guide for your subject area or your unit’s Moodle site for guidance.
  • Revision material to help you study for tests and exams can be found through:

For advice on how to structure your search once you’ve decided on a place to look, see How to search.