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Media, Music, Dance & Performance, Cultural Studies

Thinking and Researching

Take some time to make sure that you understand your assignment question.

It can be helpful to highlight the keywords in the question and to think about the wider concepts that are relevant to the topic. These keywords and concepts will help you search for information.

Sample question

Are there significant gender differences in the use of computer games by adolescents?

pen and paper




Make a list of alternative words/concepts to use in your search:





concept 1 concept 2 concept 3
computer games gender age
online games sex differences children/young adults/teens/youth/adolescents
gaming male / female social aspects
video games boys / girls psychological aspects 

Tip : You might start your MultiSearch search combining two terms such as:  Gender AND "online games"

Note that the AND in capitals will connect the concepts in the search results. The inverted comma's will search for "online games" as a phrase.

Types of Information: use the tabs to find out more about each

In academic publishing, the goal of peer review is to assess the quality of articles submitted for publication in a scholarly journal. Before an article is deemed appropriate to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, it must undergo the following process:

  •  The author of the article must submit it to the journal editor who forwards the article to experts in the field. Because the reviewers specialize in the same scholarly area as the author, they are considered the author’s peers (hence “peer review”).
  •  These impartial reviewers are charged with carefully evaluating the quality of the submitted manuscript.
  •  The peer reviewers check the manuscript for accuracy and assess the validity of the research methodology and procedures.
  •  If appropriate, they suggest revisions. If they find the article lacking in scholarly validity and rigor, they reject it.

Because a peer-reviewed journal will not publish articles that fail to meet the standards established for a given discipline, peer-reviewed articles that are accepted for publication exemplify the best research practices in a field.

Courtesy Lloyd Sealy Library, USA.


The easiest and fastest way to find peer-reviewed articles is to search the online library databases, many of which include peer-reviewed journals. 

Historical photo

Hans Weingartz Leonce49

"Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later."

 - Yale University, Primary Sources at Yale 2008

Primary sources can include:

  • Newspaper articles
  • Photographs
  • Diary entries
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Pamphlets
  • Court files
  • Eye witness accounts

A quick guide to using Primary sources from the DoHistory website.

Secondary sources comment on, describe, discuss, analyse, and interpret primary sources of information. For this reason, they are usually created after the event or time period recorded by the primary sources they use. Examples include;

  • textbooks
  • journal articles
  • commentaries
  • biographies
  • literature reviews
  • Indexes


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Tertiary sources are similar to secondary sources in that they both interpret primary sources of information. Tertiary sources, however, are usually condensed summaries and are useful as general reference material, offering definitions and overviews when you are starting on your research. Examples include;

  • Encyclopaedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Handbooks


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

OERs are free and accessible online teaching and learning resources.

OERs, are educational materials which are licensed in ways that provide permissions for individuals and institutions to re-use, adapt and modify the materials for their own use. OERs can, and do include full courses, textbooks, streaming videos, exams, software, and any other materials or techniques supporting learning. 

You can read more detailed information on our OER libguide.

Evaluating your search

Generating Ideas

Sometimes you may be asked to come up with your own research question to write about. It can be daunting to try and think of a topic that is original and interesting. Generating Ideas is a short module which will give you some good pointers to get you started with thinking creatively around a topic. Just log in to iLearn to get started.

Think about the research you will do

Ask Yourself:

  • What do you already know about the topic?
  • Are there parts of the topic that you need to learn about?
  • How much information do you need?
  • What information has already been provided? e.g. in lectures and course readings
  • Has your lecturer provided you with any guidelines? e.g. word length, referencing style, types of sources you need to use

How recent?

Do you need current information, a historical overview or a combination of both?

What type of sources?

  • Australian or international sources or both?
  • Newspaper articles or websites?
  • Data or statistics?
  • Books or journal articles or both?
  • Peer-reviewed articles? Peer-reviewed articles are known as scholarly or refereed articles. They have been reviewed by subject specialist researchers working in the academic community.

You might think differently about your topic once you start researching it. This is normal. Just redefine your topic as you go and adjust your search strategies.