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Research skills tutorial

Your guide to success!

3.2 Things to consider when selecting sources

To select the most appropriate source, work out what type of information you need before you start searching.

Your information needs will often determine the sources of information you need to find.


Are you unsure of the meaning of a particular word?

A dictionary is the first source to check if you are unsure of the meaning of a word.

In addition to a range of general dictionaries and encyclopedias you will find a range of subject specific dictionaries and encyclopedias. You can find dictionaries using the Library Catalogue.

You can also find a wide range of dictionaries and glossaries online (see Facts Online).


Do you need more background information?

Basic concepts are often covered most clearly in a textbook or reference book.

Use your Course Reading List to find materials in the Reserve Collection. To find out more about how to find references on a course outline, refer to Finding resources from a Reading List.

Search the library catalogue for books on your general subject area.


Does your topic include a geographic restriction?

Sometimes a topic focuses on a particular location, such as a country or region.
e.g. to find information about Australia look at Australian resources.

The Library has a large collection of Australian databases including: 

  • Informit (look for via Informit in the list of databases)
  • ANZ Newsstand (Proquest)
  • CCH Online
  • IBIS World
  • LexisNexis
  • MIMS Online
  • Tourism Research Australia
  • USC Research Bank


Off campus access to databases is restricted to USC students and staff. You need to authenticate using your USC network login and password.

You can also find Australian information in international sources and the library catalogue by including Australia as a keyword in your search.


Are you restricted to a particular date range?

Some topics require you to find information published in a particular time frame or to investigate a particular event that occurred in a particular period of time.

If a time frame has been stated, make sure the information you find is written during or about that time frame. Most resources, such as the library catalogue and databases can be searched by publication date range or by keywords on a time period.

If you need to find information about events or time periods, you may need to do some background research to find which dates are relevant to your topic.


Do you need to use peer reviewed sources?

A peer reviewed journal, or refereed journal, is one where articles submitted to the journal are reviewed by experts who work in the field of research, before being accepted for publication.

It may be a review by an independent editorial board or where articles are sent to reviewers independent to the board.  The reviewers and board members are experts in the field, who independently assess for quality, accuracy and other criteria.

Some databases allow you to limit your search to peer reviewed journals only.


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