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Primo: using the library catalogue: Finding resources for your assignments

Finding resources for your assignments

Here's a quick checklist on what you need to think about in your search to find resources for your assignment. 

Before you start, you should consider three key questions:

  1. What sort of information do I need?
  2. Where should I look for information? 
  3. How can I search effectively so that I find relevant materials?


Planning is key!


  • Plan your search 
    • decide what you are looking for - do you need a basic introduction, a detailed explanation, a set of statistics providing evidence of research? 


  • What is the assignment asking you to do? 
    • This will indicate how you should write and what is the purpose of the assignment. Look at the task words, for example: Discuss / Analyse / Describe / Compare / Explain etc.
    • check what you are being asked to do by looking at the guidance notes in your module materials.


  • Read your assignment question...
    • ...and read it again!
    • keep referring back to the assignment question to ensure you are finding relevant resources to answer the question 


  • Highlight key terms 
    • Identify the key words/terms from your assignment question and use these as the basis of your search.


  • Decide which words best describe your topic
    • be focused and specific.


  • Think about synonyms, or alternative terms for your topic.
    • For example, UK or United Kingdom or Great Britain / Covid-19 or coronavirus. 

There are three broad categories of sources:

  • Primary
    • Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based. They are firsthand documents that provide direct evidence on your topic. Examples: diaries, speeches, correspondence, interviews, manuscripts, Government Documents, News film footage.

  • Secondary
    • Secondary sources are the interpretation, commentary or analysis of other sources. They are accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. Secondary sources are not evidence, but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence. Examples: bibliographies, commentaries, criticisms, essays or reviews.

  • Tertiary
    • Tertiary sources are organisation, categorisation, index or collection of sources. A tertiary source presents summaries or condensed versions of materials, usually with references back to the primary and/or secondary sources. Examples: dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, almanacs, abstracts.

What about grey literature?
  • Grey literature is material that is not formally published in the usual established formats.  In addition to identifying published resources you will need a strategy for finding grey literature. Examples: conference papers/conference proceedings, dissertations / theses, working papers, clinical trials and research group reports.

For effective online searching you need to invest time up front to develop a search strategy using a range of search techniques. If you fail to think about your search strategy you may find you are overwhelmed with far too many irrelevant results.  

It is useful to think of this as a three step process:

1. Identify your search terms

2. Combine your Search terms

3. Use search techniques to enhance your search

Further searching information available on the Basic Searching and Searching Techniques pages within this LibGuide. 

Now where to look...

  • Primo is a good place to start finding resources for your assignment
    • in the main you will use the Library's databases

    • the databases allow you to search through millions of journal articles, book chapters and book reviews, reports and proceedings, theses, etc., at one time.


  • A-Z of E-resources via Primo
    • This is a page of links to a wide variety of online information resources which AU students and staff have access to via an AU Library subscription or purchase, plus a small selection of high-quality, freely-available content. 



  • Check your reading list via BlackBoard or Aspire
    • Your reading list contains the recommended readings for the module your are studying.  You can access e-books, articles and digitised readings directly from your reading lists. 


You will find more information on the different aspects above within this LibGuide. 

Aberystwyth Research Portal 

You can search and find the Aberystwyth Research Portal via Primo for AU higher degree theses and research located in the Pure research repository. If you prefer, you can visit the Aberystwyth Research Portal and search it directly.

The Aberystwyth Research Portal makes the very best of Aberystwyth University's staff and postgraduate research openly available online, free of charge.

Content in the portal includes published outputs, postgraduate theses, project details, as well as records for other esteem activities.

The portal also includes Personal Profiles of all current staff and research students.

This allows browsers of the Portal to view on one page all related research content linked to that person. Browsing is also possible by department.

You can search the Aberystwyth Research Portal for theses either in the general search box or by browsing the postgraduate publications community. Aberystwyth Research Portal records do not necessarily provide full text access, for theses, this might be because a thesis has a temporary embargo on open access (embargo conditions and date of availability can be found by clicking on 'Show Full Item Record'), or a permanent embargo due to issues of copyright or sensitive information, for example.


JISC Library Hub Discover

Library Hub Discover

Search over 119 UK and Irish academic, national & specialist library catalogues:

Jisc Library Hub Discover exposes rare and unique research material by bringing together the catalogues of major UK and Irish libraries. In a single search you can discover the holdings of the UK’s National Libraries (including the British Library), many university libraries, and specialist research libraries. 


Google Scholar

 How Google Scholar Judges Research - Social Science Space

Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar can be a good place to start your search but it does not allow for the advanced or complex searching you can do in the Library's research databases.

Access e-resources using Google Scholar 

Google Scholar may not provide access to full-text, however, by linking to the Library you can access full-text where there is a University subscription. 

  1. Selecting Settings from the top of the Google Scholar Home Page
  2. Selecting Library Links
  3. Search for Aberystwyth University. Select it from the list and Save your settings

You will now see FindIt@Aber links next to items in your Google Scholar results that you can use to access the full-text.

In an information-rich society, it's vital to remember that not all information resources are equal!

When you are looking for information, you are a researcher. As a researcher, you must evaluate the information you find and decide whether the content is:

  • scholarly
  • correct
  • authoritative

Along with accessing, searching, and finding information, evaluating information is vital. It is important to evaluate carefully the sources you choose. Consider what you are looking for and why. When you have more credible sources, the more credible your argument. 

Why is evaluating what you find important?

When you are finding resources for your assignment, you want to find the best information to support your ideas, discussions and arguments. This requires careful evaluation of the information you find.

It is important to evaluate information. This will ensure you:

  • discover the most relevant information for your topic and assignment
  • to enhance the quality and reliability of your research 
  • find expert views, opinions and peer-reviewed research on your topic
  • to decipher and weed out biased, unreliable and incorrect information

Evaluating information will allow you to recognise and dismiss information that is:

  • unreliable
  • biased
  • unfair
  • out of date
  • incorrect
  • false
  • fake
Take the CRAAP test!

CRAAP is an acronym for each step of the process of evaluating a source.

  • C: Currency
    • Currency relates to the timeliness of the resources or refers to how recent the information is.

  • R: Relevance
    • Relevance relates to the importance of the information to you and your information needs

  • A: Authority 
    • Authority simply refers to the author(s) - who wrote the piece. It is important to know whose work you are consulting.

  • A: Accuracy
    • Accuracy relates to the reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the resource. 

  • P: Purpose

    • Purpose relates to the reason the information was created. 


The CRAAP Test was developed by the Meriam Library at California State University, Chico.

woman writing on notebook

For any material you consult it is a good idea to record what you find, and where and when you found it. This will make it easier to acknowledge your sources correctly and retrace your steps if you need to.

You will need to manage the resources you find. Many online information sources contain features to help you store your search results for later use. In Primo, for example, you can store your search results in your Favourites. Try to get into the habit of storing the records for the information sources you find so you don't have to spend valuable time searching for them again when you are creating your reference list.

Further information on managing resources you find. 

Further information on referencing correctly