Finding the right references, part 2: Getting a first overview

By Gordon Rugg

In a previous article, I looked at some issues that affect how and why finding the right academic references can be difficult. In today’s article, I’ll look at how to set about finding those references, beginning with the familiar problem of reading lists.

Some lecturers supply reading lists; others don’t.

Reading lists can be very comforting, because someone else has already done the thinking for you, and has told you what you need to know. There’s also the nice implicit message that you only need to know what’s on that list, so there’s a limit to the work ahead.

It’s a comforting feeling while it lasts, but there’s usually a small voice at the back of your mind asking what will happen when you leave university and enter a world where nobody is likely to give you a reassuring list of the things that you need to know.

Which brings us back to the lecturers who don’t supply reading lists, and who expect you to find information for yourself, with only a few words of guidance, such as “Weber’s work on bureaucracies is the place to start” or “Good question; that’s a classic sociotechnical problem”.

Where do you go from that sort of start? Your friendly librarians will usually be very happy to give you good advice about how to locate information online, and often, that advice will find you exactly what you want. However, there are some other quick and dirty methods that you might find useful. They’re what this article is about.

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