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Using Written Resources

Using Libraries

Reading Skills

Different Methods of Reading

Finding out your Reading Speed

Researching and Writing Assignments

Note Taking

Writing a Research Report.




The Learning Game

Using Libraries in Person

This section provides general information on library use; individual libraries will have their own rules and systems and you should obtain a brochure about any particular library you wish to use.

Searching the Catalog

The catalog is the key to accessing any library collection. Most libraries now have electronic catalogs, and some of these can be searched at a distance by those who have access to the Internet.

They may seem daunting to technophobes, but provided you follow the instructions on the screen they are not too difficult to use. They enable you to search for books, journals, and other materials in a number of ways. You can identify and locate:

  • a specific title (book or journal)
  • books by a specific author
  • publications on a specific subject
  • publications that have a particular word in the title.

As well as giving you bibliographical information about each item, such as who wrote it and when and where it was published, the catalog will also give the item's classification number, which will enable you to locate it in the library.

Searching More Widely On The Shelves

Since the classification number is based on the item's subject matter, other publications on the same subject will be found nearby. In theory this means that all the books you are likely to need on a particular topic will be together, and can be found by browsing on the library's shelves at a particular number. However, browsing the shelves alone will miss significant related material which may be classified at other numbers. For example, a student of education seeking material on learning would find relevant material at Dewey decimal 370.152 (teaching and learning), 374.13394 (the sociology of learning) and 153.15 (the psychology of learning). In addition, materials in different formats are usually shelved separately. You should therefore always search the catalog by subject and keyword to identify the whole range of materials to your topic.


As well as books, you will at some stage also need to consult periodicals. Periodicals are also called journals, or serials, and are published regularly (weekly, monthly or annually, for example). Nature, Harvard Business Review, North and South and National Business Review are all shelved in the periodical section. Journal articles are important sources of information since they contain reports of the most up-to-date research, and often give concise summaries of information. they are particularly valuable for those working in the sciences, business and social sciences. They are sometimes very specialized and 100 and 200 level students may be best advised to restrict themselves to articles specifically recommended by their lecturers.

A library catalog will enable you to find the location for a particular journal, but will not enable you to trace individual articles on a particular topic. If you wish to do this you will need to use indexing and abstracting journals, often called "indexes and abstracts". They index the contents of hundreds of journals in a particular subject area.

Searching Using ElectronicTools

These "tools", which are just as useful for digging the garden, have long been available in paper form, but many are available on-line or, even more conveniently, as CD ROMs (Compact Disk - Read Only Memory). Many libraries hold them in CD ROM form, and they are much quicker and more efficient to search than the paper version. Examples are PsycLit (psychology), Medline (medicine), CINAHL (nursing and health), ERIC (education), and ABI/Inform (business). Be aware, however, that these indexes and abstracts (whether in paper or electronic form), index enormous numbers of journals published around the world. You will find when you check against the catalog that many of the titles you want to look at will not be held by the library you are in.


Browsing through individual journal issues themselves is a slower and rather random way of tracing articles on a topic, but it is the only way when there are no indexing journals available. Regular browsing through current issues of key journals is also the way to keep abreast of the most recent development in your subject area.

Be selective

Having searched a library catalog, and compiled a list of published sources on your topic, evaluate those sources, and select those that appear the most relevant. Remember, even at postgraduate level, you are not expected to read everything that has been written on your topic. Of those that seem relevant, start with those which you cab readily get hold of; only if these seem insufficient, should you try to obtain others. If you have an abstract, or summary of an article, that can often give you at least some of the information you need.


If you do need material not available either via your postal service or at a local library, it can be obtained through the interlibrary loan (interloan) system. This is a cooperative arrangement by which libraries make their borrowing collections available to the patrons of other libraries. Requests for interloan should be directed to the library of the institution at which you are enrolled. If you request a book it will be lent to you if it is available for loan. If you request a journal article, or a chapter from a book, it will be sent to you as a photocopy which you can keep. Remember, however, that libraries have to abide by the provisions of the Copyright Act, and this limits the amount of copying that can be done from any one book or journal issue. Since it can take two or three weeks for requested items to arrive, interloan is really too slow for regular undergraduate assignments and is most suitable for 300 level postgraduate research work. The service is normally free at present, but there are usually charges for anything required urgently, or anything that has to be obtained from overseas or from an electronic document delivery service.

References and Bibliography

As you peruse all the publications and take notes preparatory to writing your assignment, remember to keep a detailed record of everything you read; you will need this when you come to compile the bibliography or list of sources consulted for the assignment.
The details required are as follows:

Books: author(s) or editor(s), full title, place and date of publication, and publisher. If just using one chapter of a book, you need the author, title and page numbers of that chapter.

Journal articles: author(s), title of article, title of journal (not abbreviated), volume number, issue number (unless volume is continuously paged), date and page numbers.

The APA Style Of Referencing

Failure to show what sources you have used when writing and researching an assignment is regarded as academic dishonesty, which is why referencing is so important. Referencing also shows the range of your reading and preparation.

APA is one of the most common formats used for setting out references. Check which system is preferred by your department or institution.


If you use someone's ideas, but not their exact words, then you are citing, Acknowledge the source by putting the author's last name and the date when the work was published in brackets at the end of the sentence:

The work done by women at home has been dismissed by society at large because the idea of work has been defined by men and housework is not seen as real work (Spender, 1990).


If you are using a short quotation in your own paragraph a page number needs to be included:

"Vast areas of female "work" have been ignored to the extent that trying to include them in the male defines parameters of what constitutes work would be ridiculed" (Spender, 1990, p. 69).

When the quotation ends a sentence, the full stop comes after the brackets. If you are using a quotation which is longer than two sentences the quote should be indented five spaces and the quotation marks left off. The quotation should be acknowledged in the same way as above.
Sometimes the author that you are reading will quote or cite another author. The rule here is that you should acknowledge both sources as follows:

"Men compete for rewards and achievements" (Pogrebin, 1972, p.78 cited in Spender, 1990, p 136).

In the reference list at the end of the assignment you would list only Spender and not Pogrebin.

Reference List

This is a list of the full bibliographical details of the sources that you have cited or from which you have quoted in your assignment. If there are any other sources which you read as background reading, but do not cite, these should be included in a new list called a Bibliography. This will be formatted in exactly the same way as described below.

All items must be listed in alphabetical order as follows:

  • Author's surname first, with initials for first and second names only, followed by a full stop.
  • Date of the publication in brackets (of latest edition), followed by a full stop.
  • Title, city of publication and publisher.
    On the reference page only, the first letter of the first word of the title and subtitle is capitalized. Title and subtitle should be underlined or italicized.. The title is followed by a full stop. A colon (:) separates the place of publication from the publisher's name. the entry ends in a full stop. Note that the second line is indented so that the author's surname stands out.

References From Books:

Single Author
Sligo, F. (1991). Organizational behavior: Case studies and commentaries. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.

Single Author, later edition
May, C. (1992). Effective writing: A handbook for accountants (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Two Authors
Strunk, W., Jr., & White, E. B. (1979). The elements of style (3rd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

Corporate Author
American Psychological Association. (1983). Publication manual (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Edited Book
Jackson, R., & Buckland, T. (Eds.). (1991). Summer schools: A unique grouping. London: Oxford University Press.

Article of Chapter in Edited Book
Mellallieu, P.J. (1993). The post modernist manager. In P.J. Mellallieu & N. Boneparte (Eds.). The manager: Missionary, magician and megalomaniac. (pp. 134-159). New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Referencing The Internet:

Should you want to reference on-line journals with general access through Internet, this is how:

Last name, initials, (Year, Month).
Article title [length of article in paragraphs]
Journal Title [the words "on-line serial"], volume # (issue #).
Available: pathname.

If you need to know how to reference any other kind of material such as study guides or abstracts refer to the APA Style Manual (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Edition 3). Also see Plagiarism.

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The page was designed and edited in May 1998 by Karl Mair.