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Finding resources for your assignment

The search process

You’ll complete a variety of assessments while at UniSA, including essays, reviews, reports and more. While assessment types may vary, the essential search process stays the same.

This page will guide you through that process, from question interpretation and search strategy creation to resource evaluation and referencing.

Understand your task

Begin by clarifying the assessment requirements. Read the assignment instructions and marking criteria supplied on your course site. The video below explains more about writing assignments at university.

If you need to develop a research topic/question, visit the Develop your research question tab on this guide to learn how.

  • Doing an assignment isn't a linear process.
  • Start by reading the task in detail, so you know what you need to do.
  • The assignment instructions and feedback sheet will explain the structure of your assignment.
  • You can find out more about different assignment types on the Study Help website.
  • You might need to revise your assignment plan as you go - this might happen a few times before you write your final draft!
  • As you read more, your argument should evolve to incorporate new information.
  • Make sure you use reliable resources to support your argument.
  • To interpret your task you will need to identify the content words and phrases - these show what you have to focus on.
  • The instruction words tell you how to approach the content, for example, describing something is different to comparing.
  • Identify the limits of your assignment by looking at keywords, word limits and other instructions.
  • Start the process early to get ahead.

Think about your topic

You’ll need a broad understanding of your topic before searching. Brainstorm what you already know and what you need to investigate.

Searching for background information can build your understanding of your assignment. Find this through the Library Collection or the web (see step 6).


Select the plus symbols below to learn more about background information.

A mind map can also be helpful in organising your thoughts at this point.

  Read: Using mind maps to plan your assignment

Try: (free online mind mapping tool)

Prepare your search strategy

To search effectively it is important to prepare a search strategy.

Identify the key concepts (main ideas) in your assignment. Terminology used will vary, so be sure to consider alternative terms for each. These will be your search keywords.

Have a look at the example question below to see how to start preparing your search strategy.

Example question: is it ethical for a health care professional to refuse to treat a patient? 1. Identify concepts: ethics, health care professional, refusal to treat. 2. Think of alternative terms for each concept. Include synonyms or similar words.

You can use quotation marks (“ “) to find an exact match, e.g. “healthcare professional”.

Combine your terms to form your search strategy (you'll type this in the search box):

  • combine all the search terms for the same concept using OR
    This will search for any of the words included
  • combine different concepts using AND
    This will search for at least one word from each line

Search strategy: ethics or ethical or moral or morality and health care professional or health professional or health care provider or practitioner or clinician and refusal to treat or refuse to provide care or conscientious objection or patient abandonment.

This list doesn't show every possible search term, just a few examples.

Know what you need

Now consider the types of resources needed to complete your assignment. As information comes in many different formats, some types may be more appropriate to your assessment requirements.

Select the plus symbols below to read more about some of the main resources.

Peer reviewed resources

You may be asked to use 'peer reviewed' or 'refereed' references. These are evaluated by subject experts before publication, so can indicate higher quality and more authoritative information. Not all 'scholarly' or 'academic' resources are peer reviewed.

Start your search

You can search for information using a range of tools, including the Library Collection and databases, Google Scholar, and internet search engines. Choose the sources that are best suited to your needs.

Select the plus symbols below to learn more about different search options.

Basic search
This is the default option when searching in the Library Collection.

1. Add in one keyword for each concept, combining them with AND.
    Note: Searching for more general terms will find more results. 
2. Select Search.
3. Swap your keywords with your alternative terms to see different results.

Basic search containing the search strategy: ethics and health and refusal to treat


Advanced search
If you would like to do a more comprehensive search, use the Advanced search.

1. Put each concept on a new line
2. Add your alternative words, combining them with OR.
3. Select Search.

Advanced search strategy containing ethics or ethical on the first line, and health or health care professional or practitioner on the second line, and refusal to treat or refuse to treat or conscientious objection on the third line.


Use the filters on the left to limit and refine your results.
You could try limiting to:

Tick box Peer-reviewed journals
Tick box Full text online
Tick box Resource types
Tick box Publication date range

Searching in Medline is different to searching in the Library Collection.

1. Type your first concept and alternative words into the search box.
2. Untick the box labeled Map to Subject Heading.

Search box containing the search strategy: ethics or ethical or moral or morality.

3. Select Search.
4. Repeat steps 1-3 for your next concepts.
5. Tick the boxes next to each of your concept lines.
6. Select Combine with AND.
Medline search history showing each concept as its own search line. Selection boxes next to each line are ticked. Lines will be combined using the and button at the bottom of the search history.
7. Scroll down to see your results.

You can do a basic or advanced search, just like in the Library Collection.

1. Type all your keywords for your first concept into the search box.
2. Select the plus symbol to the right to add a line for your next concept.
3. Add all your keywords for your second concept into the search bar.
4. Repeat steps 2-3 until you have used all your concepts.
5. Select Search.

Advanced search with search strategy: ethics or ethical or moral or morality on the first line, and health or health care professional or clinician on the second line, and refusal to treat or refuse to treat or refuse to provide care on the third line.

More useful databases:

Google Scholar
You can search Google Scholar in the same way as a  basic search on the Library homepage.

  1. Access Google Scholar on the Library website
  2. Follow the instructions to link your session to UniSA
  3. Use the basic Collection search on the Library website
  4. Look for the PDF links or Fulltext at UniSA links to access the resource

Basic search containing search strategy: ethics and health and refusal to treat.

Relevant websites

To find relevant websites that are recommended for your area of study, have a look at the Find evidence: government and organisation information tab in this guide.

You could also visit the following resources:


You can use Google to search for information from professional bodies, governments, and non-government organisations. This might include reports, clinical guidelines, professional standards, codes of conduct, and more.

Google has a number of useful search features that can make your searching more efficient:

LibKey Nomad

If you are looking for information on the internet, it's worth downloading LibKey Nomad. It's a browser extension that will look for full text PDFs of journal articles from websites outside of the Library Collection. This is helpful when looking on pages such as Wikipedia, because you can easily access and read the articles from the reference list. Instructions to download LibKey Nomad are available here.

Select appropriate references

You should critically evaluate all resources found to determine their appropriateness for your assignment. The video below explains more.

  • Having access to a lot of information can be overwhelming.
  • Evaluating information helps you decide what resources you should use.
  • One technique you can use is the CRAAP test.
  • Currency: How recent is the information? Does it suit your needs?
  • Relevance: Is the information relevant to your assignment?
  • Authority: Who wrote the information? Are they an expert?
  • Accuracy: Is the information accurate? Is it supported by evidence?
  • Purpose: Why was the resource created? Is there any bias?
  • You can use the CRAAP tool to think about these issues when evaluating your resources.

Correctly reference your sources

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

Write it up

The following resources will help you prepare for oral presentations:

Watch: Building great business presentations (1:08:00)
Read: Oral presentations (Study Help page)
Read: Ten simple rules for making good oral presentations

The following resources will help you formulate your debate:

Visit: Toastmasters International website
Read: Debating: a brief introduction for beginners (Debating SA)
Watch: Debate skill: argument building (11:08)
Watch: Debate lesson: refutation and rebuttal (11:11)

The following resources will help you create videos:
            Watch: How to write a script (3:51)

The following resources will help you create podcasts:
            Watch: Producing podcasts (1:42:00)
            Watch: How to start a podcast (14:26)

Open source (free) software:

Navigate to the report and feedback survey.

If you need help, just ask!

Navigate to the Ask the Library webpage. Navigate to the UniSA study help pals webpage. Navigate to the Studiosity webpage. Navigate to the Learning Advisors' webpage.
Contact: Ask the Library Ask: the Study Help PALs Use: Studiosity Talk to: Learning Adviser