Finding information and critical skills

Learning outcomes

After engaging with this support, you will be able to:

  • Identify an appropriate tool to use for finding information for your specific purpose
  • Discriminate between good-quality academic sources and other sources
  • Present a balanced and well-structured argument
  • Develop strategies for assessing the appropriateness of sources to use in your assignments
  • Critically analyse arguments within sources to identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Use correct style and format for different types of written assignment (eg reports, scientific writing)
  • Adapt your writing style to suit your purpose and audience
  • Identify and use key databases in your discipline

Suggested online resources

Tailored content

(same as OPTO20200 apart from subject change in Intro and example question change):


Hello Material Science first years! This content has been put together for you by the Library to support you in developing key research skills.

After engaging with this support, you will be able to:

  • Locate core library resources
  • Understand where to find different types of information
  • Understand the importance of evaluating information
  • Know where to find additional help

What, where and how?

When you are searching for resources to support your academic work and assignments, it is important to consider the following three questions:

  • What am I searching for? (this may involve mapping out your keywords)
  • Where will I search for it?
  • How am I going to search?

Spending some extra time thinking about the answers to these questions before you start searching will make your search more efficient, helping you get to the most relevant information as quickly as possible.

What am I searching for/hoping to find?

In order to perform an effective search you need to know exactly what you are looking for. Often this will require you to examine your research question or topic area in more detail using the steps below.

  1. Highlight the key concepts in your research question
  2. Map out synonyms — are there any related concepts or other ways to express the same idea which need considering?
  3. Consider if there are alternative spellings or word endings for any of the key words you have come up with.


Analyse the example question (below) and map out relevant search terms:

Analyse the effectiveness of the retrofit method for reinforced concrete beams?


The traffic light system:

Now prioritize the list of terms you have come up with using some coloured pens.

  1. Highlight key terms which are integral to your research in Green
  2. Highlight terms which are not essential but you would consider in Orange — these terms are negotiable and are more flexible. These might include terms
  3. Highlight terms which are not required for your research and could detract from the focus of your research in Red. If these terms begin to appear in your search results you may choose to EXCLUDE these.

Where will I search for it?

Embed modular finding information content already in Blackboard:

1.8 Using multiple sources

2.2 Why Should I use Library Search?

2.8 Searching activity in Library Search

3.0 Google Scholar

Embed 1–1.7 Subject databases with Material science subject guide in 1.2

How to search?

EMBED section “Additional Search Tools” from Claire’s NURS33060 request in Blackboard

EMBED SLS blog posts:

Advanced search: making use of Boolean operators

Search Operators: Refine AND combine OR NOT?

EMBED Successful searching podcast

Evaluating your sources

3.1 Finding Information Evaluating your sources podcast

Being critical

2.5 Academic writing: Getting prepared to write

2.2 Integrating the work of others into your writing

Where to find additional help

Embed standard help links:

Help and Support

SLS links

Feedback survey




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