Different types of information
All of the following types of information are used in academic study. Each may be provided in print format, online, or be available in both formats.
Types of information
Textbooks are one of the most common types of information used in university studies. They tend to contain practical advice or outline key theories/theorists linked to your chosen subject. Some textbooks are written entirely by one or two authors, others have different authors for each chapter and the whole work is brought together by editors. Often you will need to read just a section of a book, rather than the whole thing.
Where can I find them?
Recommended textbooks from your tutors are found on your reading lists for each module. You can also search for them on the Library Catalogue.
Newspaper articles are useful for providing evidence regarding the media or public response to an event, person, policy or initiative. The vast majority will involve some form of bias, either from the author or the editorial agenda of the publication.
Where can I find them?
Of course lots of newspapers have their own websites, but if:
- you hit a paywall,
- you need an article from before their archive starts,
- or you want to cross-search across lots of different newspapers,
you can find specialist newspaper search tools and databases through the Library’s Specialist Subject Resources page.
Journals are published in a similar way to newspapers and magazines; there are a number of issues each year and each issue contains articles. Journals are different from newspapers as the articles tend to be accounts of research projects and what they discovered, which means they are used a lot as evidence in academic work.
You'll need to understand the background to your subject area before reading journal articles as, although they are shorter than books, they go into a lot of depth on a narrow topic, and will assume prior knowledge.
Where can I find them?
There are lots of journal article search tools. The main one is the Library Catalogue – select the option to 'search everything including journal articles'. There are also subject-specific search tools – check below for more on these.
Resource types by subject area
Types of information: Business
Some types of information, in addition to those outlined more generally, are used extensively in Business research.
All these sources of information can be found using the Business databases.
Case studies focus on a particular group or company. They will investigate initiatives and developments linked to that group and report on the findings. You will find these on Global Data Explorer, HS Talks and Emerald as well as in some journal articles (make 'case study' part of your search).
SWOT analyses and profiles of companies. Found in Global Data Explorer, Business Source Premier, and FAME.
Statistics, data and consumer surveys on the UK, specialising in sectors such as Travel, Food, E-commerce, Leisure, Lifestyles are found in Mintel. Global Data Explorer provides information on the market for both products and companies.
Found in Global Data Explorer and Euromonitor.
Country and city information
Profiles of countries and cities available in Global Data Explorer which include PEST analyses; database of comparative country statistics in Global Data Explorer.
FAME UK provides access to detailed financial information on companies such as profit and loss, turnover, number of employees etc.
Types of information: Education
Some types of information, in addition to those outlined more generally, are used extensively in educational research.
Government guidance for the implementation of legislation is found in policy documents. Examples of these include the National Curriculum and the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Much of this policy documentation can be found with a quick Google search, but you can use the advanced search option in Google to restrict to GOV.UK websites only if you need British policy. Alternatively, you can search on GOV.UK directly.
Specialist newspaper articles
Many professions have newspapers which cover their subjects in particular. In Education, examples include Tes (formerly known as the Times Educational Supplement) and the Times Higher Education (THE) supplement.
Both Tes and THE have their own websites, but there is a restriction on how many articles you can download. Library & Learning Services provides you with online access to newspaper databases which allow you to download more. Find these on the Library & Learning Services’ Specialist Subject Resources page – Global Newsstream is one such service which will allow you to search for this specialist material and download it.
Inspection reports are often used to give background information regarding a school. Ofsted has a website where you can find these reports.
Types of information: Health
Some types of information, in addition to those outlined more generally, are used extensively in Health research.
Grey literature is the name given to a large number of different types of publications that are unpublished or published in a non-commercial form. Examples of grey literature include reports, pamphlets, clinical trials, policy statements, conference proceedings, theses and factsheets. Grey literature can contain high quality information but it is unlikely to be peer-reviewed so it is important to critically evaluate it before using it.
There is no one place to look for grey literature but it can be found at NICE, Social Care Online, The Health Foundation, and The King's Fund, amongst others.
National guidelines aim to use the best available evidence to provide recommendations to help improve health and social care.
NICE, National Guideline Centre, The Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network, and The NHS Wales e-Library for Health are good places to begin your search for this type of information.
Government guidance for the implementation of legislation is found in policy documents. A lot of this can be found with a quick Google search, but you can use the advanced search option in Google to restrict to GOV.UK websites only if you need British policy. Alternatively, you can search on GOV.UK directly.
Types of information: Humanities
Some types of information, in addition to those outlined more generally, are used extensively in Humanities research.
Historical newspapers refer either to the text from historical newspapers, or to scans of the actual text and layout from the original.
There are a number of newspaper search tools available through the Library & Learning Services’ web pages, including 17th-18th Century Burney Collection, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, The Times Digital Archive and Historical Newspapers incorporating The Guardian, The Observer and The New York Times 1791-2003.
Primary sources and archive collections
Many primary resource collections are freely available to access online. In some cases you may find you will need to visit collections beyond the University where resources have not been digitised.
There are lots of primary sources and archive collections available, both via the Library and public collections. These include Archives Hub, British History Online, First World War Poetry Digital Archive and the John Johnson Collection.
Ordnance Survey maps
Download geospatial data for use in CAD and GIS systems and access information about geospatial data and resources. There is also a historical maps service.
Ordnance Survey maps are available via Digimap. You will need to register your details the first time you log in. You will also find that Digimap provides a wide range of other types of Geographical data including geological, environmental, census, historic and aerial.
Reference texts for religion and philosophy
Such texts will help you to gain overviews of key theorists and their works. The Gale Virtual Reference Source has religious information, and there are Oxford Handbook collections for Religion and Philosophy.
Original literary works and their critiques
There are online services which offer access to both literary works and the criticisms written about them. A key search tool for original literary works and their critiques is ProQuest One Literature.
Government and Parliamentary sources
A number of governmental and parliamentary sources are available, some free and some subscription-based services. UK census data and Parliamentary information, such as the transcript of debates in Hansard, is available via Government websites.
Types of information: Performance & Media Production
Some types of information, in addition to those outlined more generally, are used extensively in performance and media production research.
Audio and visual material
These are sources of information presented through sound, images or video, usually in combination. Examples of these are documentary and film recordings, music recordings and image libraries.
Whilst you could use services you find through a general search engine to find such material, Library & Learning Services subscribes to many services which provide high-quality audio-visual materials, such as:
- Audio: Music & Performing Arts, Popular Music Library, Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries. There is also the CD collection in the Library.
- Video: BFI Player, Box of Broadcasts, Classical Music in Video, Digital Theatre Plus.
You can find full lists of our audio-visual resources on the Library’s Specialist Subject Resources.
Reference information for performance and media production
This type of information will help provide you with overviews of key theorists, practitioners and their work, and can be found books from the Oxford Handbook range, or services such as Oxford Music Online.
This includes study scores, solo and ensemble performance scores and full orchestral scores. Try our Music Score section on the First Floor of the Fountains building, or search the Classical Scores Library Volumes I and II.
Trade and industrial publications
Trade and industrial publications can provide useful informaton from a non-scholarly perspective. Usually these have not undergone academic review, so you should evaluate the information to see if it is appropriate to use in your research. Ask your tutor for further advice on this.
Search one of our databases such as Discover and choose 'Magazines' and 'Trade Publications' from the source types.
|Search Success is based on SMILE by Imperial College, Loughborough University and the University of Worcester, modified by Library & Learning Services at York St John University. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.|