Look at the assignment you’ve been given. Try to pick out the keywords on which you will base your search.



Or, if your assignment was about, for example, anti-social behaviour, you could think of additional keywords such as crime, alcohol, policing, housing etc.

If necessary find a definition of any terms you are unsure of. You can find this in text books, dictionaries (including online versions) or an online reference database such as Oxford Reference Online or Credo Reference. Access the databases above via the electronic resources A-Z list on the Electronic Databases page on the library website.

If you are confident that you have identified and defined your keywords, you should now try to identify relevant books and journal articles to write your assignment.

You may be asked to distinguish between primary and secondary sources. Look at the definitions below for guidance:

  • Primary sources are original texts, such as a journal articles giving accounts of research carried out by the authors of the article. Another example would be an autobiography, photograph, film.
  • Secondary sources are opinions or commentary on other people’s work. Authors of books and journal articles often refer to previous related work, these accounts are secondary sources. These can include textbooks, journal articles and biographies.

Reading Lists Online

You may wish to access resources suggested by your module reading list. You can do this easily by using Reading Lists Online. Access RLO via the Library homepage or your Moodle module. See the help section on the Library website for further details about Reading Lists Online. As well as reading lists online, have a look at the next few BISSTO pages on how to find and use books and journal articles.


When searching for academic information for your assignments use Discover@Bolton. This is a search engine that enables you can search for books, ebooks, journal articles, newspaper articles and other resources at once via a single interface. See our Discover@Bolton section for further information.


Owl's Top Hoot

Use one of our online dictionaries to define your keywords. Here's a short video to show you how.

Using online dictionaries

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