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Online Study Tool Kit

Finding Resources Step by Step Guide

This brand new curated step by step guide for Roehampton students is packed full of tips, tricks and advice to help you navigate the world of resource searching. Start here and your searching experience will be all the better for it! Covering text, video and images, this guide is highly recommend as a quick “go to” place when you’re just starting out on research for your assignment.


Step 1: Types of sources

Most university assignments will require you to find a variety of information to complete your essays and reports, from current statistics to historical research on a specific topic. The sources you use matter and reflect the work you have put into your project.

The Library's resources or 'library collections' are developed in conjunction with academic staff to support the subject areas studied and researched across the university. The library collections are paid for, in particular access to online resources, so is not freely available on the internet, e.g. you can't 'Google it'. Finding high-quality, scholarly sources on Google is difficult and time-consuming. The advantages of using library resources are that you have access to high-quality, scholarly content, which is easier to search for and specifically selected by academic staff to support your studies.

We strongly recommend starting your search using UR Library Search to find the best resources. If you do use Google we suggest using Google Scholar instead, and add the Lean Library extension to your browser to detect and access paid content that you have free access to as a UR student.






Most of the sources you find when you are conducting your research or literature searching will be primary or secondary.

Primary sources are original sources of information that provide first-hand accounts of what is being experienced or researched. They enable you to get as close to the actual event or research as possible. They are useful for getting the most contemporary information about a topic. Examples include diary entries, newspaper articles, census data, journal articles with original reports of research, letters, email or other correspondence, original manuscripts and archives, interviews, research data and reports, statistics, autobiographies, exhibitions, films, and artists' writings.

Primary and secondary resource video tutorial

Some information will be available on an Open Access basis, freely accessible online. However, many academic sources are paywalled, and you may need to login with your Roehampton username and password to access them. Where Roehampton does not have access to a source, you can use our Inter Library Loan service.
Secondary sources interpret, evaluate or analyse primary sources. They're useful for providing background information on a topic, or for looking back at an event from a current perspective. Examples include journal articles which review or interpret original findings and newspaper or magazine articles commenting on more serious research, textbooks and biographies.

Primary and secondary resource video tutorial


Step 2: Searching for sources

There are two main literature searching methods:

This involves searching catalogues, databases and search engines using combinations of keywords or phrases relating to your research topic. UR Library Search on the Library website is the best place to start your information searching – it’s a comprehensive search engine that searches a wide range of Roehampton resources. Use your search terms under "Search Everything" and filter your results on the subsequent results page. Or, you can add more criteria in the Advanced Search screen.
On the left hand side of any search results page you can limit to certain formats (eBooks, print book, article, thesis, etc.), specific date ranges or subjects.
We highly recommend you also consult with your specially curated subject resource guides. Databases listed here are specific to your area of study and offer similar features to UR Library Search.
It’s also useful to have a look at a source’s bibliography/list of references to see what information the author consulted. This often gives you a useful set of relevant sources that you could then look for and read. However, do note that these sources will be older than the original one. You can then check to see if Roehampton provides access to these sources by searching for the book or article title on UR Library Search or by looking for the journal on the A-Z eJournals list. If we don’t and you’d still like to read it, you can place an inter library loan request for this item.

Search techniques

When you input keywords or search terms into a database, there are strategies you can employ to increase the chances of finding the most relevant information. See the tutorial below for best strategies of how to do this and you can also use it to keep a record of your own searches.

Finding Your Research tutorial

Developing a search strategy

A search strategy is an organised structure of search terms. A strategy will help you to be focused and methodical, and save you time. It can also increase your chances of finding relevant information.

Try to use a variety of terms in different combinations so you find as many relevant sources as possible. Think about what words or phrases are key to understanding your topic: you want to try to capture the range of language used by authors. You can then use these core terms to build a list of broader, narrower and related terms. Dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopaedias or simple web searches can help you come up with these alternative search terms.

See the tutorial below for examples of this.

Starting Your Research tutorial

Step 3: Finding sources from other libraries

Although we have thousands of resources at Roehampton, you might not always find everything you need. This is particularly the case when you are researching for your dissertation or final year project. If you want to do a thorough piece of research, you may want to use source from other libraries. You can try one of the following options:

If you can't find the item you need in the Library you can request this through our Inter Library Loan service. Through this scheme, we can try and borrow the book or acquire a PDF of an article from another library for you. The items are borrowed from the British Library and U.K. and Ireland institutions and are supplied for free.
Allows you to visit other UK or Irish university libraries to look at their books and journals (full-time undergraduate students can't borrow, but still have reference access). Apply for SCONUL Access and register with your Roehampton email address. You can search on Library Hub Discover to identify which other university library has a particular book or printed journal. Always check a library’s current access arrangements before you go.


Step 4: Saving results

Make sure to save your search results carefully. This way, you can easily find them later for a closer look. It also helps you remember where you got your information, so you don't accidentally copy someone else's work. When you gather sources, try organizing them by theme. This helps you keep your ideas in order when you're writing your assignment.

Most databases have several options for saving so you can choose the one that best suits your needs:

This is a good way of quickly saving results. You can then go to your inbox later to look at them in more detail.
You may want to download a PDF version of the article to save to your device, or even better to your university OneDrive account. It’s good practice to set up folders for each assignment so you remember what the source is for. If you do download a PDF, make sure you also record the source's bibliographic details so that you can reference it. Also bear in mind that a downloaded PDF may be on a temporary license. This means you may need to log back into the database to download it again after a certain number of days have elapsed.
It's often possible to create a personal account within a database. This is useful if you know you will be going back to a resource regularly. You can save your results and even your searches in some cases, so you can re-run them later.
Logging into UR Library Search also has several key benefits in the "My Account" section to aid you when you are looking for resources, such as:
• Save items
• Save custom lists
• Save specific searches
• Remembers your search history
Reference management software (e.g. RefWorks) helps you organise reference records. It often allows you to add bibliographic citations or references directly to assignments. We have a comprehensive Referencing Guide on the Library website.


For help with referencing, Cite Them Right is the go-to online referencing tool. Make sure you consult with our curated Cite Them Right guidance for assistance with this, and all things referencing.

Step 5: Evaluating search results

Before using any type of resource in your research ensure you are using credible sources that are are high quality, timely and trust-worthy. Using credible sources to back up your work makes your writing more persuasive and shows critical thinking. A useful check is to apply the CRAAP test to your sources:

  • C for Current: How timely is the information?
  • R for Reliable: Where did the information come from? Who published it? Is the information balanced or biased?
  • A for Author: Who wrote it (author or organisation)?
  • A for Accuracy: What evidence supports this work? Has it been reviewed or refereed?
  • P for Purpose: Why was this written and published? Who is the intended audience? Whose point of view is missing? 

This short 2 minute video on Evaluating Resource also provides a useful visual overview of the CRAAP test.


Step 6: Search alerts

To keep up with the latest research on a topic it's a good idea to set up email alerts. This is particularly useful for dissertation or longer term research projects. Many journal databases allow you to set up email alerts to notify you when new research matches your search criteria, by setting up a personal account on the database. You could set up multiple alerts for different topics / search criteria.