Finding appropriate academic material

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Finding appropriate academic material

Before you start your search for material to read, you should identify the key themes you are looking for. Also think about what type of literature would be most useful to you. If you are new to the subject then a generic text book might be a good starting place. If this is a subject area you know something about then you may wish to draw on the academic or professional literature to refine your knowledge.

Searching online

An online search can help you get a feel for how much information is available on a topic, and may also identify sources you would not otherwise find.

Don’t simply search for broad topics such as ‘organisational behaviour’ or ‘adult psychology’. By searching on a short string of connected words you can reduce the number of hits to a more manageable and relevant list. You may need to refine the string a few times once you see what is being returned.

  • Use a Google Scholar search. By searching on word strings, Google Scholar will report sources ranging from text books to journal articles. Be aware that if you try to access the articles through Google Scholar you may find that there is a charge. However, as a registered student you can use the OU online library, which gives free access most journals articles. If you note the full bibliographic references from Google Scholar you can go into the OU library and find the articles you need.
  • Use an OU library search. Follow the links or use the Help and Support page
  • Use a web search. A general search on the internet will return a wide range of sources, not all of which are credible. A good way of testing the credibility of a source is to check the name of the author, to see if he or she has produced other academic work. Alternatively, check whether the web address ends in .ac.uk, .edu, .edu.au, or .gov – these are usually academic or official sites.
  • Use Wikipedia. Wikipedia is not a reliable source of academic information, primarily because there are no checks on the academic credibility of the material that is posted there. However, Wikipedia can be a useful source of further references.

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