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Which information sources best suit your need?

When writing a paper, you need to use several information sources. Below is an outline of the various kinds of information sources available.

Books

Naturally, you know what books are. But do you know when books are the best source to use for writing papers? Scientific books are important because they provide both perspective and depth. A chapter from a book could be just what you need to write a short paper or give an oral presentation.

Please note: Writing and publishing books takes time, so don't look there for material from the last six months.

  • When you need a lot of information about a topic, person or event
  • To place your topic within a bigger picture
  • To learn how other researchers have dealt with your topic

Where do you go to find books?

BIBSYS Ask is the library catalogue for NTNU University Library, the rest of the University - and college libraries in Norway. Here you will find our books and journals, where to find them on the shelves, along with information on how to have them retrieved for you. You can also find out what books other University - and college libraries own.

Journals

Articles in scholarly journals focus in detail on specific topics or research questions. The topics will not be covered as broadly as in books. Articles in scholarly journals are usually written by researchers and have been quality controlled by other experts in the same field. Articles of this kind are regarded as more 'academic' or professional than most articles in magazines. Articles in scholarly journals address students and researchers and include relevant information.

Use articles from scholarly journals to find:

  • both recent and older information about your topic
  • references to any other relevant research

Where do you go to find journals?

The best way to find articles from journals or books is to use reference databases . Some only cover one or more related subjects, while others are more general.

Their common feature is that they are collections of information and references to other articles. In some databases you can also read the full article online. Databases are arranged so that you can find what you are looking for in a simple and logical way.

Background information/References

Start by looking for background information in reference literature (encyclopaedia or other reference books) on your field.

Reference literature contains specialised information and bibliographies (lists of books, articles, and other sources), where you can find more information about your topic. Background information can help you understand how subjects are split up into smaller parts, and makes it easier for you to narrow your topic.

Use Reference literature when:

  • you need background information about topics or people
  • you are trying to find important concepts and significant time periods
  • your topic is too broad and you need help to narrow it

Where do you go to find background information?

BIBSYS Ask and the library's website and subject pages are useful places to search for background information. You can also ask a librarian for advice and guidance.

Web pages

Information exists in abundance on the Internet. Governments, organisations, Universities and teaching institutions, as well as private individuals and commercial and non-commercial global enterprises publish information on the web. The information varies from quality research results to biased or incorrect. A lot of the information on the Internet covers ongoing events, topics of public interest and information about organisations and enterprises.

You can search for websites in search engines like Google or other search engines, where you can browse large topics. Usually there are numerous hits of relevant information intermingled with a lot of irrelevant websites (noise). Your results may improve by using advanced search techniques. You will find reliable and relevant scientific information on Google Scholar and similar websites.

Use the Internet to find:

  • Topical information, for instance from global newspapers
  • Information about enterprises and organisations
  • Public information

Public information

Public information is a very important information source covering a number of topics. It is published by the national or the local government.

Public information includes:

  • Government negotiations
  • Laws
  • Public reports
  • Publications from Statistics Norway
  • Case documents from municipalities and counties, etc

Public information is available in print and recent information can often be found on the Internet.

Use public information to:

  • Find statistics on various topics
  • Find information on a country's official policy, political debates and resolutions
  • Find laws and reports
  • Find information about government and public administration

Newspapers

The greatest advantage of using newspapers is the novelty aspect - events are recorded as they take place. Another advantage is the geographical focus. Local newspapers cover local events.

However, you can rarely use newspapers to find the thorough analyses of topics you need when writing term papers. Newspapers are available from the library, older newspapers on microfilm and online versions at the newspapers' homepages.

Use newspapers to find:

  • New information about international, national and local events
  • Book - and film reviews
  • Editorials, topical commentaries and debates

Primary sources

Primary sources are unedited information deriving from participants in or witnesses to events and time periods.

Primary sources could be:

  • photographs
  • letters
  • newspapers
  • minutes of meetings
  • church registers, etc

Primary sources take you closest to the objective version of what happened. Primary sources can be found in archives.

Use primary sources:

  • When you want first-hand observations of events or time periods
  • When you want to find information on current events

You will find primary sources in public archives such as in the National Archives of Norway, and in private archives.

Interviews

You can read interviews with or talk to people who have the knowledge and experience you are interested in. This will provide you with their personal experience and expertise. To ensure objectivity, you should supplement the information from the interviews with books or articles about your topic.

Use interviews:

  • When you are looking for the story behind people's experience
  • When you want expert opinions and views

You will find interviews in newspapers, journals and books. You can also find them in television and radio archives. You can search for interviews in BIBSYS Ask and other databases.