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Preparing to Search

In addition to identifying useful keywords, it is necessary to clarify what sort of information is required and where this information might be found.

Reference Books

Reference books are useful starting points in an information search as they can give a comprehensive overview to the main issues and concepts of a subject. They can help clarify your keywords and provide definitions of terms you may not fully understand.

Dictionaries - can be general or subject specific. They are good for providing short descriptions or definitions.

Encyclopedias - can be general or subject specific. Encyclopedias will provide greater coverage and subject descriptions than dictionaries.

Directories - give background information, addresses and contact details for organisations and people.

Statistical yearbooks, statistical publications - give data on topics such as population. They can be very useful when you need to trace a trend over time.


Books are excellent source of information. They can be general or more specific and can give comprehensive overviews of a topic. Use the Tables of Contents and the Index to search for your keywords.

Journals & Newpapers

Journals & newspapers are excellent sources of information. Most journals are specific to a topic, and can give succinct articles about a subject. As they are produced more frequently than books, their information is usually more up to date. Journals & newspapers can be searched via our journal databases using web technology.

Journals range from popular to academic peer reviewed journals.

Popular journals contain large amounts of advertising and their articles are not peer reviewed (e.g. NZ House & Garden).

Academic peer reviewed journals will have very little advertising, and mostly contain articles following the required academic presentation format of abstract, introduction, method, results & discussion. The articles will most likely be reviewed by a panel of experts in that field of knowlege (e.g. Journal of Advanced Nursing).

Newspapers are published very frequently and provide extremely current information. They often have review articles on topical issues of the times. They can have a bias, so need to be evaluated with discretion.


The web can be a very good source of information. There is a mixture of quality information, half-truths and falsehoods available over the Web. It is imperative to evaluate the information you find from this source.