At university you are expected to read from a far wider range of sources than at school or college and you are expected to demonstrate the breadth and depth of your reading in your writing. In Levels 1 and 2, you may rely mostly on textbooks and websites, with just a couple of journal articles. In Levels 3 and 4 you are expected to use textbooks as a starting point for baseline knowledge only and draw most of your information from academic journals.

The starting point for reading for any assignment should always be the recommended reading list from the module handbook and any recommended reading that you have been given in lectures and seminars. You then need to conduct a comprehensive library search to find further relevant and credible sources of information. These sources may include academic text books, research articles in academic and professional journals, websites and reports published by government and professional bodies.

An academically credible source is:

  • transparent - the originator of the material is clearly stated
  • authoritative : the information is reliable because it has been evaluated to ensure that it is accurate and unbiased
  • verifiable: readers can follow up on sources

How credible are these sources?

x Lectures and seminars are an excellent starting point for gaining knowledge about an issue, but they cannot be cited as a reference. The lecture itself is a compilation of information from different unverified sources. If you want to use a concept, theory or idea from a lecture, you need to read the academic literature to find it.

✓✓✓Academic textbooks and journal publications. Click here to find out more about reading journal publications.

✓✓Websites of companies, governmental and non-governmental organisations are credible sources, but bear in mind that the primary function of an organisation’s website is to present the organisation in a positive light - your job is to read the website with a critical eye to identify bias. Always find out the name and purpose of an organisation before using it.

X Websites like Businessballs, Wikipedia, BBC BiteSize, schools.net are not academically credible sources – the information is synthesised without acknowledgement from a variety of sources and is often not at an appropriate depth of analysis.

? Newspapers are of limited value, because newspapers report information rather than producing original information. If a newspaper reports the result of a research study or government report, you should look for the original source in an academic journal or on a government website, rather than just relying on the newspaper.

If you are struggling to find credible sources of information, you can make an appointment with a subject librarian, who will show you how to search for sources. For further information about how your librarian can help you or to make an appointment, click on the link to contact your librarian.

Many students are overwhelmed by the amount of reading they are expected to do – have a look this link to critical reading strategies to explore how to manage the reading.