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Become familiar with the information landscape

Information comes in a variety of packages, including:

  • books
  • journal articles
  • conference proceedings
  • websites
  • government documents
  • laws and legislation
  • newspapers
  • reports
  • white papers
  • policy briefs
  • statistics and data

Producers of this kind of information include commercial publishers, organizations, professional associations, higher education institutions, research "think tanks", and government.  These more traditional sources of information are what students typically use when writing academic papers.  Some of these sources come from commercial publishers (books and articles), while others are published as grey literature.

With the advent of social media, students can also access less traditional sources of information, such as:

  • Internet forums
  • blogs
  • wikis
  • video sharing sites (e.g. YouTube)
  • social network platforms (e.g. Facebook)

Producers of this kind of information include the same groups listed above as well as pretty much anyone who has access to the Internet.  While not a traditional source of information, social media networks are often some of the first to report on breaking news events or provide commentary and can have just as much value as some of the more traditional sources depending on the kind of paper you are writing.

Whether you’re using print or online sources, you will have to look in a variety of places in order to find it.  It is unrealistic to expect to find everything by doing a simple Google search.  While this may be a good place to start, you need to search more than just Google.  The key is not only to find information, it is to find good information.   After all, your research should be the most appropriate and best for your paper, not just the easiest to access.

The next pages introduce you to the various search tools available, effective search techniques, as well as strategies to evaluate the quality of the information you find.

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