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What do you need to do?

This guide will get you started with finding robust academic references for your journal and major essay.

It's important to understand your assessment before you start searching. Reading through the details in your course outline and course website will help you:

  • Know what you need to do
  • Know what types of resources you need 
  • Understand where to search – e.g. If you need statistics, the Library Collection won't be the best place to search

Plan your search

Planning your search will help you find information more efficiently. Start by:

  •  Identifying the main concepts in your research topic.
  •  Thinking of any alternative concepts or synonyms for each concept.
  •  Connecting your concepts together using AND and OR to form a search.

A table or mindmap can be a useful strategy for doing this. 

For example, you could create the table below if your thesis statement was 

'This blog will trace the (historical genesis of the) idea of Marxism in order to help explain the contemporary issue of personal brand creation' 

Main concepts

Concept 1

Concept 2
Personal brand

Synonyms (similar concepts)




personal branding

brand identity 

Tip: As you search, you may come across more concepts or synonyms you can incorporate. Don't be afraid to change or modify your search as you go.

Connect your key words

Now you need to connect your search concepts together to form different search strategies. The below table summarises how they work:

Operator words What it does Example
  • Narrows your search.
  • The more concepts you connect with AND the more focused your search will become.
Marxism AND personal brand
  • Broadens your search.
  • Includes results that use different terminology.
Marxism OR Marxist OR socialism OR socialist
  • Removes concepts from a search.
  • Not recommended as you can potentially eliminate relevant results.
Marxism NOT anarchism

Watch or read the below for more information on how to put together a search using operators:

More help

Watch Plan your search  (2 min 26)
Read: How to plan your search (pdf)
View the Writing your assignment page for more info on interpreting your topic and planning your search

Using operator words

Test your knowledge of operator words with the activity below.

Start your search

After you build up a search strategy, you can start to apply them in search tools, such as the example searches below.

   Library Collection

The Library Collection can be a useful starting point in locating information.

Put your search in the basic search box, group your alternative keywords inside brackets

Alternatively, use the advanced search to split your concepts on to different rows

Use Refine my results on the left hand side to narrow your results. Here are some examples:

  • Show Only - Peer-reviewed journals
  • Resource Type - Book chapters
  • Publication Date - limit to the last 10 years

The Library catalogue does not list everything we have access to. Try a database when you are not finding relevant results in the Catalogue, or in order to restrict your results to a specific discipline, topic area or material type.

Here is an example in Sociological Abstracts (via ProQuest) it provides descriptive information for international literature in sociology and related disciplines, covering journal articles, books and conference papers.

Example Advanced Search

  • Put a different concept on each line.
  • Use OR to connect any similar terms (synonyms).

  • Tip: Use the Find it button to try and locate full text articles.
   Google Scholar

Try Google Scholar to find scholarly information. An advantage of Google Scholar is that it provides access to the full text of many UniSA scholarly (academic) articles if you connect via the link above, or from the Library home page.

The Advanced Scholar Search option gives more flexibility when you search. To access it select the menu (three lines) in the top left hand corner of Google Scholar. This menu will appear once you do an initial search in Google Scholar.

Here is an example:

   News Media

To find news articles on a particular topic look at the Library databases listed under the News subject heading. These databases contain both Australian and international content:

You may also want to consult the News Media subject guide which includes news wires, RSS feeds, and media releases.

Want to find 'sociology' related Australian newspaper articles?

Use the NewsBank Newspaper database to search for specific Australian articles by selecting the Australia's Newspapers link and search for the article by Headline (change from the default option of All Text), using double quotes around your phrase.

If you don't know the exact headline you can still do a headline search - just add keywords and double quotes. For example theft by headline and "past 12 months" at Date(s) field, would find the articles with the keywords theft in the headline/title which were published in past 12 months. You will then need to look through your results until you find the article you require. You can select the article you require to email or print it.

The following independent news sites may also be useful sources for your assignment. You can access these by logging in via the Library catalogue with the username and password provided.


The following podcasts may help you generate ideas for developing your topics for assignment 2 and 3:

Scholarly sources

You need to find scholarly references to support your assignment. To learn more about what scholarly sources are, watch this video (2min 22):

Evaluating Information

It is important to evaluate the information you find. Watch this short video (3 min 16) for more information view the Evaluate page.

Writing an academic blog

For your second assessment item, you are required to write an academic blog. The blog post is still a piece of academic writing, but it is less formal than an essay. Read below for more information:

Reflective writing

Your blog assignment should include a reflective element. If you're not familiar with reflective writing, the video and resources below may assist you to understand what is required.

  • Reflective writing helps you to look back over your learning experiences.
  • It shows how your knowledge, skills and attitudes are developing.
  • Reflective writing involves more than just describing your learning and development.
  • It's important to evaluate and analyse your learning to show a deeper level of reflection.
  • This can include what, why, and how you are learning, any changes you would like to make, and gaps in your understanding.
  •  You may need to link your reflections to your course readings and theories, and consider how these reflections can help you develop as a professional.
  • The layout of reflective writing can vary - always check your task instructions and feedback form for specific details.
  • You can use more personal language in your reflective writing, however it is still a formal assignment and may require you to reference key theories or ideas in an academic style.
  • Reflective writing is not a linear process. It involves adding, changing, rethinking, refining, restructuring your ideas.

Writing essays

Now that you have done your research it is time to put all of your information together.

Study Help is an online hub packed with resources to help with assignments and study skills. Watch the below short video on Essay writing


Referencing roadmap banner. Navigate to the referencing roadmap resource.

You must appropriately cite (‘acknowledge’) all references used in your assignment to avoid plagiarism.

Further Assignment Help

The Student Engagement Unit has created a suite of resources called Study Help that can help you understand different assignment types and study skills.

There is also a Writing your assignment page that can also assist you with interpreting your topic and planning your search

Studiosity offers assistance with academic writing, referencing, maths, business studies and more. Use the online chat or submit work for feedback.