Document 181930

Learning Centre
How to...
find information
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If you would like more help and advice on finding information or using any
of the resources available in the Learning Centre, please ask a member of
the Learning Centre staff.
© Coleg Gwent Learning Advisors 2011
You can find this document at: … Learning Centre Online
Information is an important part of our lives, whether it is for college
work, to help you find a job or because the subject is of general interest.
It is said that we live in the ‘information age’; the amount of information
available on just about any subject is huge and growing rapidly. When you
are looking for information, the important thing is to be able to find
relevant and reliable information that is easy to access.
Looking for information can seem overwhelming, particularly as there are
so many types of information and places to look. This guide will help you
to find information for your work by getting you to think about the
information you need, the type of information available and how you can
find it.
The questions to consider when you are starting out are:
1. What information do I need?
2. What types of information are available? Which resources can I use
to find them?
3. Where can I find resources to help me find information?
4. How useful, reliable and accurate is this information?
What information do I need?
As part of your course you will be given assignment briefs, project titles or
questions to answer. For most of these you will need to find information.
The first thing you need to do is read the assignment brief/
project title/question carefully and make sure that you understand what
you are being asked to do.
Do you have to write an essay or produce a report?
Will you be presenting your information to your class
and tutor?
Are you going to be taking part in a discussion and need
to understand the subject from more than one point of
Next, write a list of key words and phrases to focus on the information
that you are looking for. These words or phrases will also be useful once
you start searching for information.
For example:
Project title: Compare waste pollution policies in the UK and
Key words/phrases: waste pollution, government policy,
regulations, pollution statistics, environmental impact.
Finally, you will need to think about the type of information you want.
Will you need historical information?
Are you looking for facts and statistics?
Will people’s opinions and ideas be needed?
Is other people’s current research important?
For more details about the different types of information and where you
can find them, see the table on page 5.
Research results
Customer service department, library staff
Gallery or museum staff, library staff
websites such as British Rail,,
search engines such as Google Image Search
and Yahoo Image Search, Microsoft ClipArt
Gallery or
copyright free image websites such as
timetables, directories, atlases
books, journals/magazines, newspapers
Tutor, specialist, technical support department
specialist websites such as ‘How stuff works’
Counsellor, careers advisors, Learning Advisors,
personal tutor, Citizens Advice Bureau, advice
lines, e.g. NHS Direct
Anyone with relevant experience
Tutor, historian, museum curator, archivist
books, specialist manuals, specialist
information leaflets, specialist
newspapers, journals, magazines, books
specialist websites, on-line encyclopaedias,
e-books, CD Roms
websites with electronic discussion
groups/forums, Web Logs (Blogs) such as
websites from advisory bodies (Citizens
Advice) or specialists (NHS Direct), careers
software (Higher Ideas, Pathfinder)
Relevant government department/personnel
/local MP, voluntary agency personnel
government websites such as National
Statistics, voluntary organisations and
agencies websites
government reports and publications
encyclopaedias, subject specific books
Tutor, subject specialist
subject specific websites, on-line databases,
electronic journals
Specialist in the research area
Subject specialists, tutors, employers, friends,
Journalist, editor
books, specialist journals
newspaper websites, electronic newspaper
database, electronic journal database,
electronic journals, news channel websites
e.g. BBC
websites with electronic discussion
groups/forums, Web Logs (Blogs) such as
websites of research bodies such as Research
Council UK, on-line databases, electronic
Which resources?
Electronic resources
The fact that an image is freely available does not give anyone the right to copy it. Most images are subject to some restrictions and are protected by
Copyright. If you want to make use of an image, it really is a good idea to ask the owner or to credit/link to the site where you found the image.
For example: photographs, video
clips, graphics, diagrams and moving
Images *
For example: train times, telephone
numbers, maps…
Everyday information
How do I mend …?
Technical information
Can anyone help me with …?
What is it like to suffer from …?
What is it like to use …?
When did … start? What happened?
How many cases of X were there last
Facts and figures
What are the different ideas
about …?
What does the latest research tell us
about …?
reports, journals
newspapers, journals, magazines
What do people think about…?
Ideas and opinions
newspapers, journals, magazines
Paper resources
What is the latest about …?
What is happening about …?
Type of
What types of information are available? Which resources can I use to find them?
Where can I find resources to help me find
Paper resources
Paper resources are available from a range of places, depending on the
type of resource:
A lot of paper resources are available to you in your college Learning
Centre. The Learning Centre should hold at least one copy of all key
recommended texts for your course.
You might also find:
- public libraries useful for books, newspapers, journals, directories
and leaflets.
reference libraries useful for encyclopaedias, company information,
statistics, family history, local history and parliamentary material.
specialist libraries useful for particular subject areas, for example,
the British Film Institute which holds national film archives and film
university libraries useful for books, journals and newspapers.
For information leaflets, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Careers Office and
Job Centre may also be helpful places to visit.
If you want the most recent newspapers, the newsagents or your
Learning Centre are good places to start.
Bookshops also sell a wide range of books and publications.
A number of paper resources are also available via the Internet as
downloadable documents that you can save and print out yourself.
For information on how to use paper resources see the Learning Centre
guide ‘How to... use paper based resources’.
Electronic resources
Websites can all be accessed from any computer connected to the
Internet. These include:
BBC News
Research Councils UK
The Free Encyclopaedia
National Statistics
History on the Net
Citizens Advice Bureau
How Stuff Works
The computers in college give you access to additional resources that
the college subscribes to. These include:
NewsUK newspaper and magazine database
Britannica Online encyclopaedia
Careers software
For information on how to use the electronic resources see the Learning
Centre guide on ‘How to... search the web effectively’ and the range of
‘How to …’ guides for each subscription resource.
The people you need to contact will be located in different places. How
you contact them will vary depending on who they are and the type of
information you want from them.
At college you can drop in or make an appointment to see your course
tutor, Student Services Advisors, Careers Advisers, Learning Advisors and
the college Counsellor.
Outside college you can contact employers, MPs, Citizens Advice Bureau,
voluntary organisations, government departments, museum curators and
public librarians either in person, by telephone or in writing.
For information on how to approach people when looking for information
see the Learning Centre guide ‘How to... use people as a source of
How useful, reliable and accurate is this
It is important to remember that just because information has been
published, it is not always accurate and up-to-date. Most books and
journals go through a formal publishing process and therefore are more
likely to be reliable as they have been checked by experts. However,
anyone can publish information on the Internet.
When you are looking for information make sure that you check the
When was it published? Is the information still accurate and up-to
Where was it published? Different countries have different laws and
standards which may mean the information is misleading.
Is the author an ‘expert’? Check to see if they have written other work
on the topic, and whether they have qualifications or a relevant job.
If you are using a website, check that it is set up by a reputable
organisation. The most reputable/reliable websites are likely to be
suffixed with:
an academic site
an American educational/academic site
a non-profit making organisation
a government site
.co, .com and .net are probably the most common type of domain
suffixes but they are used on commercial sites, so treat the information
on them with some caution. Anyone can buy a .co, .com or .net
Does it include a bibliography; a list of books, websites and magazine
articles that the writer used as his/her information sources?
Acknowledging the source makes it clear that the author is not trying
to pretend someone else’s work is his/her own.
Watch out for bias; for instance, a ‘report on tooth decay by a
chocolate manufacturer’ may not be entirely truthful. What is the
author trying to achieve with the information; does it educate, inform,
persuade, sell, promote or entertain?
Things to think about:
Is only one side of the argument presented?
Is there a hidden message?
Is it trying to persuade you or change your opinion?
Can you distinguish facts from opinions?
Does it appear that any information is purposely omitted?
Be aware that people’s opinions may be biased or their past
experiences may cloud their viewpoint. It is always a good idea to
check the information against another source (e.g. a website or a
book) to confirm your findings.
BBC. (2001-2006). Returning to learning. Becoming a better learner.
Study Skills. Researching. [Online]. Available at:
arch_04.shtml (Accessed: 25 April 2006)
COTTRELL, S. (1999). The Study Skills Handbook. London: Macmillan
JONES, G. (2006). Gateways to Learning: 5 Steps to Information Literacy.
Wales: Gateways to Learning
RICHLER, J. (2003). The info zone: how to find information for
assignments. Wigan: Wigan & Leigh College
Online. [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 5 May 2006)
THE OPEN UNIVERSITY. (2001). Safari: Skills in accessing, finding and
reviewing information. [Online]. Available at:
(Accessed: 25 April 2006)
You can find this document at: … Learning Centre Online
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© Coleg Gwent Learning Advisors 2011