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University isn’t just about fun and learning to live independently – there’s also a lot of work to be done. Make sure you are making the most of your studies by accessing the library and follow our tips for assignment success.

Library tips

Accessing books and resources

You might be sent a reading list from your university, and if you bought all those books that would be really expensive, as some textbooks can cost up to £100 each. But your university library will usually have these for free.

Often you can use an online search to check if the book you want is in stock in your university library before you go all the way there.

You can also search for a broad topic and find different books you can use for your assignment or research. Some courses expect to see a variety of sources used; this search is a good way of finding some.

Study Spaces: University libraries often have great spaces available for you to do group or solo work in. If you struggle to concentrate or don’t have great internet in your house, head to the library to get your work done.

Libraries aren’t just about books – they also have loads of online / digital sources – e.g. access to academic journals through things like OpenAthens. This gives you free access to articles to use for assignments and research.

Academic research tips

  • Keyword List: Begin with a list of keywords related to your topic.
  • Expand Keywords: Use a thesaurus or synonyms to broaden your keyword list.
  • Truncate Keywords: Use an asterisk () to widen your search (e.g., “clos” will find close, closing, closed, closure, etc.).
  • Boolean Search: Use AND, OR, NOT to refine your search.

Academic resources

Don’t just use Google – use multiple sources to show your breadth of knowledge and to verify the information. Remember that anyone can write anything on Google.

‘Good’ resources (books, academic journals and magazines, government sites, Google Scholar, academic libraries and databases and some newspapers) won’t be widely available for free on Google.

Good academic resources will be peer-reviewed and so more reliable.

‘Not so good’ resources (blogs, YouTube videos, online encyclopaedias, tabloid papers) offer opinions rather than facts or have articles that don’t cite their sources.

Use the CRAAP test to analyse your source – Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose.

Writing assignments tips

Planning your assignment

  • What do you need to write about?
  • Where will you find the information?
  • What sources will you use?
  • When do you work best? When’s the deadline? Give yourself plenty of time to avoid stress and leave time for fun.
  • Keep notes of where you get your information – you’ll need to reference your sources for assignments, so get used to doing this (online referencing tools can help you build reference lists in the correct formatting). If you make notes as you go along then this saves you a lot of work when you’ve finished writing! You also might need some of this information in exams too so it’s useful to have it handy.

Language and structure

  • Different assignment types require different approaches:
  • Reports – factual, brief
  • Essays – more descriptive, balanced, structured.
  • Check the language of your brief:
  • Analyse – divide into parts and methodically interpret
  • Compare – look for similarities and differences between multiple things
  • Define – Give the exact meaning of a word, expression or concept
  • Evaluate – Make an appraisal of the worth of something – thinking about how valid or reliable it is, you can include you own personal opinion to a lesser degree, as long as it is supported by relevant experience
  • Beware of your language. You need to use academic English – so no slang or contractions (e.g. can’t). Academic English is formal, objective and impersonal.

Referencing tips

Avoiding plagiarism

  • You must reference where you get your information. If you use a quote and don’t correctly reference where it’s from, this can be considered plagiarism.
  • Universities use different forms of referencing style – so it’s important to find out which your university uses before you begin writing.
  • The main information you need to show when referencing will include the ‘4 Ws’ – who, what, where and when.

As noted above – make your life easier by keeping track of this as you go along.

Last updated: 15th July 2024

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