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Information Sources

Studying at university requires engaging with other people's ideas and work. Often this means reading about them in books and academic journals. Other sources you may use include reports, trade publications and conference papers.  

​Find out more about these below.

Books and eBooks

books on shelves

What are they?

Books generally deal with a particular topic or subject in detail. Books are excellent sources for:

  • Books are a good place to find out about a topic that is new to you
  • Locating background information on a particular topic
  • Finding a good summary or overview of research on a topic
  • Textbooks - offer a broad overview and introduction to their topics and are usually written by experts specifically for students. They are usually lengthy (around 500 pages) and will have graphs and illustrations to help you understand the content. Many of the textbooks provided by Sheffield Hallam are also available online as e-books.
  • Edited Books - This type of book is a collection of chapters written by different authors. An edited book will have a main central topic and each chapter author will write in more detail about an aspect of this topic.

Where can you find them?

Many books are available online as eBooks as well as in print formats in the libraries.

How to find books on the shelves

The Dewey system is a method of organizing library books on the shelves. When a book is received in the library it is given a number, according to the subject or subjects that it covers. This number is made up of three digits, followed by a decimal point (full stop). There may be digits after the decimal point. The number will end with two letters. For example 364.24 GA. All the books on the same subject are given the same number, so inorder to make it easier to locate a specific title, the books are shelved first by the number - in number order, and then by the two letters.

Have a go at this quick Dewey Game, which seeks to explain this concept.


Study skills for sixth form - Dewey Game

Journals, magazines and newspapers



Also known as: Academic Journals, Scholarly Journals, Trade Publications or Professional Magazines.

What are they?

There are two main types of Academic Journals or Scholarly Journals.

Academic Journals

  • Regular publications containing articles written by researchers about their research.
  • Amongst the most reliable sources.
  • Contains reports and updates on research in particular subject areas, conference reports, book reviews, opinions etc.

Trade Publications/ Professional Magazines

  • Contain general purpose daily news and opinions by experts and non-experts, often having a significant political bias.
  • Magazine aimed at professionals in a particular industry, with news, job adverts, product reviews and advice for that industry.

Where can you find them?

Most journal articles are available online. Some are available in physical formats in the libraries, particularly for Arts and Humanities subjects. You can find these on Level 2 of the Adsetts Library.

Find out how to use journal literature in your research

For further information and guidance on using journal literature you can have a look at this online tutorial package. Although it is aimed at Business students, the ideas and techniques explained can be applied to any subject area. It includes:

  • understanding business journal literature from trade magazines to peer reviewed journals.
  • tips and step by step guidance to help you find journal articles
  • how to use citation searching to find more literature.
  • how to be more active with your reading.

journal literature illustrative image

Other sources

Video, images and audio

Media resources like these can be immensely varied, as they are intended for a variety of different purposes. However, while they are usually aimed more towards the beginners level, in many cases they are valuable for illustrating practical skills or basic concepts.

You can find video and audio recordings in Library Search. 

Specialised sources

There are many sources, such as market research, company data, conference papers, maps, case law, standards and so forth which are intended to fulfil a very particular role: they will not be useful in most contexts, but are absolutely the right source to use for certain tasks, as they provide information that is not available elsewhere

Quiz - Types of information

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