Research: Getting started (using the Online Library and finding electronic journals, etc)

All academic essays, reports, reviews etc. need supporting source material. This will mostly be reading, but also watching, looking and listening.

Information can come in a variety of format but you’ll need to cover as many as possible.

Remember ‘research’ takes time, you can’t do it in the last few days before hand-in.

Your final bibliography should contain examples from most, if not necessarily all, of the formats below.
Note that not everything is available online, there are still some excellent printed sources.

  • Books/e-books
  • Journal articles
  • Websites
  • Films
  • TV and Radio
  • Podcasts
  • Newspaper articles
  • And probably others we’ve forgotten to list such as games, software…etc.


Note: although you can find a whole heap of information sources on the Internet, the fact remains that no author needs permission to stick up a website and often nobody has edited or proofread their facts and opinions.  Does “fake news” mean anything to you? So, be careful and wary of Internet resources that don’t come from recognised academic sources or a recognised organisation such as a museum.
Want to find out more about evaluating your sources?  See i-spy tutorial Evaluating & Verifying
Also, as creators you need to be aware of copyright when downloading images.  See Searching for and using images and digital media.

How do you find sources of information for your assignment?

Wandering around the LRCs gazing at the shelves (called browsing) is perhaps the least useful approach.  Instead use Library Search, which lists all the resources held physically and electronically in the University’s collections.
To access go to StudyNet>Online Library

 Be systematic in your research

1. Define your topic
Sit down and think about the subject you want to write about.
Read the brief, look at the task you’ve been given.
Write down the key words which define your subject.
Think of different words to describe your subject – synonyms.
If you’re looking at a film write down the director’s name.
If you’re looking at an artist or designer, who did she or he know, be influenced by etc.?

You could use Wikipedia as a starting point but always triangulate your information with other reference sources. At University level you’ll need to dig deeper.

Oh. And a small tip. Don’t start with a Google or other browsers.  No honestly – don’t instead go to the Online Library as you will find quality academic resources.

2. Go to StudyNet>Online Library

Library Search is the library catalogue.  It will allow you to discover all the books, e-books, journal articles and DVDs and more that the University has in its collections.  You can read e-books online but for those still on the shelves always remember to check the location. Be prepared to walk or catch a bus. Some stuff is at College Lane LRC, but others are at the de Havilland LRC.  Watch this video on how to search the Online Library.

3.Subject Toolkit: Creative Arts

Once you have searched Library Search, you should also check specialist databases. StudyNet>Online Library, see Creative Arts.


Specialist Databases & Journals

Journal articles are extremely important sources of information to support your essays.  Most of these resources are paid for by UH and you can’t get them unless you’re a student at UH.  For example, FIAF is a database of a full of Film & TV journals and magazines, Art Full-Text has many electronic versions of the major publications in the areas of Art, Design Architecture, there’s International Music Periodicals a great database that covers everything from Baroque Music to Electronica.
Once you’ve started using them you’ll wonder how you coped before.

There are Subject Toolkits for every subject taught at the Uni, the Subject Toolkit for Business is a great one for Creative Arts as it includes marketing databases and company information.

4.Google Scholar

You’ve found books, journal articles, now you can go to Google. Why last? Well it’s huge.  Can you be bothered to look even the first twenty pages of results? Thought not.

If you need to use Google we recommend using Google Scholar  It restricts itself to academic material which is good, if a little too restrictive in the Creative Arts.


You need to cite or reference all the sources you’ve found and used in your work.  The School of Creative Arts uses the ‘Harvard System’ and the guide is available from here.

If you find a useful resource, record its details so you can put it in your bibliography.  You can make a note in a Word document but a more efficient way of doing this if you have a lot of titles is to use a reference manager such as Zotero or EndNote Online.
Tip: from Library Search (and other databases) you can email yourself your results.  See this video.

Learning and research skills

Need more help researching?

Contact your Information Manager, Cathy Tong (  She supports students and staff of the School of Creative Arts to find information for essays, coursework, research and teaching.

If you have never used a large library before or don’t know what online resources you should use, Cathy can help.  Any question however small or silly you think it is – she will answer it! You can also make an appointment with Cathy if there is lots you need to ask.

*Disclaimer:  Cathy can only answer your small and silly questions if it relates to information sources, books or journals.

Bad example:

You: “My hamster, Gerald, won’t eat his food what should I do?”

Cathy: “I’m sorry I can’t help poor Gerald…”

Good example: 

You: “I have been asked by my lecturer to look up journal articles for my essay on the history of cinema.  I don’t know what a journal is, can you help?”

Cathy: “Yes, yes of course I can help…”

Total 4 Votes

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