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Finding quality sources of information

Research assignments often require you to find quality academic sources of information. Quality academic sources need to be credible, current and relevant.


Academically credible sources are written in an academic style using formal language. Academic sources are:

  • supported by evidence i.e. citing of information e.g. ‘ Smith (2010) explains …’ For more information see using evidence in your writing.
  • written using objective language e.g. ‘It can be argued…’ rather than ‘We argue…’
  • often written by someone with academic qualifications. Do the authors have the relevant qualifications from a recognised university or organisation? Are the articles published in reputable journals?
  • Be wary of using online sources – they are not widely credible. Use educational and government websites with internet suffixes: .edu, .ac or .govt as they are considered more credible. Avoid online material that is published on commercial sites (sites with .com or .co ) as they may be biased. Websites of non-commercial organisations usually have a .org suffix.


Your choice of sources will depend on the task you are given, but it is best to use current source materials that have been published within the last five years. The exception to this is when you are asked to refer to a seminal work (important and influential work) of an author.


Academic sources you use need to be relevant to your assessment, so make sure you read the instructions carefully. You find relevant information by:

  • Doing keyword searches on the library database or Google Scholar.
  • Search through the library databases to locate your sources e.g. Business Source Premier, Google Scholar, Emerald Insight. You can search using keywords and phrases and get information on up-to-date academic journal articles and conference papers. For more information see searching databases.
  • You can access the library business subject guide here.
  • Reading the abstracts, introductions and conclusions of your source to make sure it is relevant. For more information see using abstracts.

Searching for academic information

When looking for information for an assignment, your sources must be appropriate for university study. This usually means that sources are written by academics with years of experience and a large amount of knowledge on the subject. The following will help you identify what academic sources are and how you can find them.

What is an academic source?

Academic sources are published materials that are based on academic research. Reputable sources often go through rigorous peer-review processes to ensure research is reliable and valid. This is why your lecturers will encourage you to draw on academic sources in the first instance so you’re drawing on current and reliable information. Information presented in academic sources can be:

  • Primary sources – where information is collected first-hand such as through interviews, speeches, audio and video recordings
  • Secondary – when the author has analysed others’ information i.e. they did not collect information themselves

There are several types of academic sources:

Peer-reviewed journal articles:  These articles are written by academics and have been reviewed by other academics before they are published. You can access many journals (collections of articles) online through your university’s library.


Books: Non-fiction books are appropriate for university assignments if they are written by academics for an academic audience. If you’re not sure whether the author is an academic, Google their details to find out more about their credentials.


Published reports: Published reports are considered appropriate for assignments as they are likely to be reviewed before they are published. Reports produced by government departments are fairly reliable because of their thorough review processes. Published reports are not always produced by academics but they are still acceptable for assignments.


Archival material: Archival materials are sources that serve as evidence of past events. These can include video and audio footage for example. These may not always be produced by academics, rather you might draw on archival materials to substantiate claims about past events.


Information from websites and business reviews might be appropriate in some instances but you would have to check their reliability.

How to find academic sources

Before you know what to look for, you need to deconstruct your assignment question so you’re clear about what you need to address in your assignment. Once you have done this, you will be able to identify keywords that you can enter into search engines in your university’s library catalogue and Google Scholar.


Library catalogue

Your university’s library catalogue will connect you to books and databases that contain journals (collections of academic articles). Use your university’s library catalogue where possible so you can access materials that your university has paid for. Reputable journals from the business discipline include:

  • Academy of Management Journal
  • Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources
  • Australian Journal of Management
  • The Harvard Business Review

How to access: Go to your university’s website and search for ‘Library’. Log in if you’re prompted to so you can access paid materials.


Google Scholar

Google Scholar works the same way as Google. It will search many electronic journals to connect you to articles.

How to access: Go to Google Scholar

Make sure you:

  • Link Google Scholar to your library account so you can access materials that your university has paid for
  • Check out Google Scholar resources to learn more about how to use it

Evaluating sources of information

One way that is often used to evaluate resources is the CRAAP test:

  • CURRENCY – when was it published?
  • RELEVANCE – does it relate to your question? Is the level of information appropriate to university?
  • AUTHORITY – who is the author, publisher, source? Do they have the necessary credentials?
  • ACCURACY – is the information supported by evidence? Can you verify it with other sources?
  • PURPOSE – what is it for? Is the purpose clear?

Check out this Auckland Library resource about evaluating sources: Evaluating sources | Learning essentials (


Watch the video for further information on finding quality sources:


McCulloch, R. & Reid, A. (2012). Your business degree. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Australia.
Williams, A. (2013). Research: Improve your reading and referencing skills. Hammersmith, London: HarperCollins Publishers.