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Starting Out

It can be hard to know where to start when you need to find information for your assignments, especially when you are juggling family, work and social commitments. Library staff love searching for good sources of information so let us help you start your research and save you time. This page will give you general hints and tips. We also have pages that help you search:

Read the assignment question carefully. Understanding your task is vital to a successful search.

  • What are you being asked to do? 

  • Identify the key concepts you need to understand and research.  

  • Make a list of keywords or terms because these will be the words you use in your searches. 

What information do you need?  

  • How much information do you need?  

  • What type of information do you need?

  • What level of information do you need?  

Identify the best type of information to meet your needs and where to look for it.

 Are you being asked for an overview?  If so:

  • Dictionaries, encyclopaedia and other reference books from the library will provide you with an overview.

  • Magazines and journal articles can also provide overviews. You will find these in the library, in our online database called OneFile, via magazine websites or by searching Google Scholar.

  • ‚ÄčWebsites of organisations or government departments can often be very useful.

Are you being asked to research the subject? If so:

  • Books often provide more in depth information. Search our seven libraries and reserve/place a hold via the Catalogue. You can search all our libraries through the search box under Library on our homepage

  • Academic journals and magazines can give you a current understanding of the issue. You will find these in the library, in our online database called OneFile (use your TasTAFE login), via magazine websites or by searching Google Scholar.

Are you being asked to look at a current issue? If so

  • Serious news websites provide up to date information.

  • Websites of organisations and government departments dealing with the issue often have a news section.

  • LINC Tasmania has a great collection of newspaper links and databases. You must be a member to access some of them so go and join, it's free!

Are you being asked to look at the history of a subject?

  • Books often describe the development of a subject.

  • Trove allows you to search the Australian Newspapers from 1803 - 1954

  • LINC Tasmania is very useful for Tasmanian subjects.

Now that you know what you are looking for, have a look at the videos below. They provide some great hints and tips so you can search smart!

Can't Find The Right Words for Your Search Then Try These...

Sometimes is can be hard to find alternate keywords. Online dictionaries and thesauri can suggest synonyms, which are words that have the same or a very similar meaning.

For example your assignment topic might ask you to focus on Aborigines but these words may also help: Aboriginal; Indigenous Australians; First Australian.

Try some of the links below to find alternate keywords.

When Your Search Goes Wrong...

Some research tasks will be easy to do and be very successful in locating information,  but sometimes they things do not how you plan. When things go wrong it is often because:

  • You didn't understand your assignment question: Check with your teacher and your fellow students if you aren't exactly sure about what you need to find.

  •  You found too much information: Can you narrow the topic down? If not, focus on the best quality information that you found.

  • You don't have enough information: Try to come up with more keywords and find new places to search. Have you tried the journal database or Google Scholar? Ask your teacher, fellow students and library staff to help you find new sources of information. Different search engine techniques may help you find better information eg "phrase searching" or using AND, OR or NOT.

  •  Your information is in one format eg only books, only websites or only journal articles: It is usually best to have a mix - unless of course your teacher has asked you to use one source.  

[source: The Evergreen State College]