Seven sources for student assignments – that aren’t textbooks!
The best assignments always cite strong and varied sources. But when you’re feeling the pressure of a looming deadline, it can sometimes be easier to just reach for your course textbook. However, finding fresh and unique material to support your textbook research doesn’t have to be difficult! To inspire you to go that extra mile on your next assignment, here are seven additional sources recommended by our tutors…
1. Reputable online news sources
The key word here is ‘reputable’. With millions of articles published daily on news sites around the world, it’s easy to be fooled by press pieces disguised as real reports or simply factually weak tabloid journalism. When researching an assignment topic, always use news sources that have a history of producing quality editorials; a good test is to check that their scientific and business stories also include citations and/or links to the original raw data or research.
2. Academic publications
Peer-reviewed academic publications and journals are an excellent way to support your argument within an assignment. Work created by, and evaluated by, academics using a transparent method and accessible data set is often of a very high quality and is a powerful tool to use to support an opinion. And it doesn’t have to be hard to find these articles either; Google Scholar allows you to search for articles, abstracts, publications, theses, dissertations and much more!
3. TV, radio, podcasts and online media
TV documentaries, radio shows, factual podcasts and online lectures (e.g. TED Talks) are an interesting alternative to more traditional forms of research. While it might seem unusual to quote a speaker instead of a writer, as long as you always cite the source it will be considered as equally valid as a paper resource. However, this isn’t an excuse for you to sit watching hospital soap operas hoping they’ll suddenly provide a crucial piece of information for your next Master of Public Health assignment!
4. Personal and company blogs
Corporate or individual blogs can provide a wealth of up-to-date information about a business sector or industry. With just a bit of online searching you can find opinion pieces, interviews, research reports and more. However, be aware that many blogs are written by company marketing departments (or those with an agenda to advertise their own skills or successes) and may choose to present facts in a biased way. Read each piece with a critical eye before deciding to use it in your assignment.
5. Conference speeches
Attending conferences is a great way to further your own knowledge about a subject, but this information can also be put to use in your written work. As with any source, accurate citation is key; take notes to make sure you quote the speaker accurately and include as much information as possible in your bibliography. Many conferences also publish slides and transcripts after the event, making referencing even easier!
6. Dictionaries and encyclopaedias
It might seem like the internet has removed the need for publishers to create huge paper dictionaries and multiple volumes of leather-backed encyclopaedias, but the information they provided is still extremely important. Online versions of these texts can provide you with an unbiased and concise definition of an idea or concept; these are perfect for arguing against, or using as support, when you’re tasked with discussing a divisive issue.
7. Industry experts
Interviewing an industry expert is definitely not something you should do when you have a deadline in a day or two, but if you’re ahead with your workload then this can be an unusual and insightful way of learning about a topic or business. Arranging an interview, writing questions and then transcribing the dialogue isn’t a quick or easy task but it will give you unique insider knowledge (while also providing you with an opportunity to network within your industry!).
Feeling inspired to start putting these tips to use?