PLAN10041 academic sources and referencing

R22–0975 PLAN10041

Library for Educators
7 min readApr 3, 2024

Supporting materials


  • Group: 40
  • Length: 50 minutes
  • Room: small lecture theatre or group room
  • Discipline: Planning and development
  • Level: UG

Learning outcomes

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

  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different search tools
  • Identify an appropriate tool to use for finding information for your specific purpose
  • Identify and use key databases in your discipline
  • Develop strategies for assessing the appropriateness of sources to use in your assignments
  • Discriminate between good-quality academic sources and other sources
  • Understand the conventions for citation styles and bibliographies required for your assignment

Suggested online resources

Session content

Outline to students what will be covered in the session, highlighting that these topics were identified by their lecturer in support of their first assignment.

  • How to access key resources
  • Academic vs popular sources of information
  • The purpose of referencing
  • Further support from the library

Session content

Outline to students what will be covered in the session, highlighting that these topics were identified by their lecturer in support of their first assignment.

  • How to access key resources
  • Academic vs popular sources of information
  • The purpose of referencing
  • Further support from the library
PLAN10041 assignment brief

Library search demo: slide 4

Show students how they can use the advanced search function in Library search to find relevant information for their assignments.

Type in the following search terms based on the key concepts in their assignment brief, highlighted in purple on the previous slide.

Line one: neoliberal

Line two: city OR cities

Line three: individual OR community OR communities

Line four: experience OR experiences OR perspective

Briefly discuss some of the filters which can be used to further narrow down results in Library search e.g. date range. Remind students that they have been asked to consider the way communities experience different types of contemporary city, so the sources they use need to be modern.

Subject guides: slide 5–6

Show students how to find their subject guide on the Library website, explaining that this a really good place to start when looking for information for their assignments. Highlight that they can find a list of specialist databases on the databases page and encourage them to familiarise themselves with these.

As searching for information will not be covered in detail during the session, refer students to the support and additional information in Blackboard. Encourage students to contact Library staff using LibraryChat, attend one of our drop ins, or use the email address given at the end of the presentation.

Popular vs scholarly sources of information:

Highlight how this topic relates to what is expected of them in their first assignment (slide 7)

The assignment brief states:

“You will be expected to include at least 5 academic references in your essay”

Introduce students to the differences between popular and scholarly sources of information using (slides 8–9)

Popular sources:

  • are often based on opinion
  • may follow an editorial process but are not always corroborated
  • use everyday language
  • often deal with broad issues

Scholarly sources:

  • are often evidence-based
  • are often peer-reviewed
  • use academic language
  • usually provide an in-depth analysis

Activity: Popular vs Scholarly sources

Slide 10: Ask students to go to and use the code 6566 2727 to access the activity.

Students will rate the following sources in order, starting with the most “scholarly” source (1) and ending with the most “popular” source (5). (5 minutes).

  • Newspaper article
  • Blogpost
  • Academic book
  • Journal article
  • Website

The facilitator then reveals the results and leads a discussion with the students, asking them — why they ordered the sources this way (5 minutes)

The pro’s and cons of different sources:

Consolidate the discussion from the activity using slide 11 to highlight some of the pro’s and cons of information type. Emphasize that each type of source can be useful, but it important to consider when and how you use them. Remind students that they need to include five academic references in their essay, which means five books or journal articles.

Journal articles: Contain the most up-to-date research and are often peer-reviewed by experts in the field.

Academic books are a great resource for getting a broad understanding of a topic, understanding the development of debate and identifying seminal papers. Books are also edited and reviewed by experts. However, books take longer to publish than journal articles so won’t include the most recent research on a topic.

Newspaper articles: can help to highlight different opinions on a topic, highlight the impact of certain phenomena or explore concepts or theories with real-life examples. However, newspaper articles should not be used as hard evidence, without including an exploration of the potential bias’/opinions they reflect. Use example of the Guardian, which is traditionally seen as a left-leaning national newspaper. Journalists conduct research and should use facts and evidence to back up what they are saying. Articles do go through an editorial process, but that process will make sure they align with the style and general ideology of the paper.

Websites: can be useful sources of information, however, they are not always updated regularly, so the information they provide could be out-of-date or inaccurate. The websites of government bodies or other official public organisations should be more reliable than e.g. a personal blog website.

Blogposts: are often based on personal opinions or may be designed to entertain the reader. They can be used to highlight the personal impact of certain issues or trends in public opinions, however, always include a discussion of the potential bias’.

Peer review (slide 12)

Highlight a definition of the peer review process, and how this helps to ensure that journal articles are high quality sources of information.

Evaluating sources of information:

Talk students through a basic strategy for evaluating sources of information using slides 13–14. Encourage them not to take anything at face value, but try always question and analyse the sources they are using, as this is how they will reach the higher marks.

Introduce the six basic questions Who, What, Where, When, Why and How? which should be applied to every source they use.

Who, where, how, when, what, why. Six questions to apply to every source.

Activity — What is the purpose of referencing?

Slide 16: Ask students to consider the following two questions and add their thoughts to the Jamboard:

  • What is the purpose of referencing for the reader?​
  • What is the purpose of referencing for the writer?​

(5 minutes)

The facilitator wraps up the activity by reflecting on the student responses on the Jamboard, then uses slide17 to highlight some of the key reasons for referencing:

  • To inform​
  • To demonstrate​
  • To separate​
  • To acknowledge​
  • To reinforce

(5 minutes)​

Incorporating the work of others

Facilitator explains three ways that they can incorporate evidence/the work of others into their writing (slide 18).

When to quote, summarise and cite

When you’re using other people’s work, it’s important to think about how much information you need for your assignment. Generally speaking, you don’t want to use more info than you really need to make your points — your tutors want to see you what you think, so your references are there to show why you’ve formed your opinions, not to just to relate other people’s ideas.


When you quote information, you reproduce it word-for-word, within quotation marks, and with a reference. If you choose to quote, you’re saying to your reader that this exact information, including the words conveying it, are too important to change without losing the meaning. This includes things like:

-statistics from a study

-the exact words someone said in a speech or interview

-the phrasing of a poem

-a line from a film script

If this isn’t the case, and the wording isn’t important but the information itself is, you should usually try to paraphrase or summarise instead — this shows you’re confident with what it means.


This is what you’ll do a lot of the time — summarise the most useful parts of a source, and rephrase them for your reader so they get only the bits they need. You might summarise a whole paragraph into just a few words, or a whole chapter into just a sentence; this means you don’t waste words quoting irrelevant information in your assignments. If you can summarise or paraphrase information well, you’re demonstrating to your reader that you understand it properly, and that you’re confident enough to pick and choose which bits you need to use for your own objectives.

Citation example​

Highlight that academic referencing requires both in-text citations and a bibliography, before explaining the specific purpose of each.

An in-text reference highlights exactly where in your writing you have drawn on the work of others; combined with the information in your reference list this allows your tutor to track down the exact passage you used. Talk through the example on slide 19 which is formatted in Harvard referencing style, which is what they are expected to use for their assignment.

In text:​

The Joint Formulary Committee ruled in the British National Formulary 76 that…(2018, p65)​

In bibliography:​

Joint Formulary Committee (2018). BNF 76 (British National Formulary) September 2018. London: Pharmaceutical Press.​

Referencing guide

Facilitator emphasises the Library’s referencing guide as a source of useful information about referencing and referencing software e.g. EndNote.​

Further support

Using slides 21–23, talk students through the various support available from the Library.

Complimentary resources about searching, evaluating sources and referencing have been placed in their Blackboard space in the Week 3 folder.

Feedback: slide 24

Ask students to go to use the code 6566 2727 and fill out the RLUK feedback question.

Asynchronous content:


  • 0.1 Finding and accessing your subject guides
  • 1.0 Subject databases
  • 2 Library search
  • 2.7 Advanced searching
  • 3.0 Google scholar

Evaluating sources content:

  • 1.1 Popular vs scholarly sources of information
  • 2.3 Questioning information sources
  • 2.5 Being critical online resource
  • 3.1 Evaluating information

Referencing content:

  • 1.1 Integrating the work of others into your writing
  • 3.0 Referencing subject guide

The resources can be on the “Course Content” page, maybe in a folder like “Week 3 — Library skills session”.

Internal ID: R22–0975



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