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The University of Bolton Library

Early Years Childhood Studies

Searching for Information

A young female student with glasses making notes

Study at University can involve a lot of independent learning. The Library provides access to a huge range of resources, but the sheer volume of what is on offer may feel daunting sometimes.

Don't worry! This guide has some helpful steps to help you plan and carry out your searching. 

Remember to always refer to the assignment brief from your tutor, as well as any other guidance in your course handbook or Moodle, before starting research on an assignment. You can also find a wide range of activities to help develop your study skills in LEAP Online

Define your terms

Look at the assignment you’ve been given.  Try to pick out the keywords on which you will base your search.

Eg. Critics of standard costing argue that it is of limited usefulness for cost control in an inflationary environment.

Or, if your assignment was about, for example, anti-social behaviour, you could think of additional keywords such as, crime, alcohol, policing, housing etc.

If necessary find a definition of any terms you are unsure of. You can find this in text books, dictionaries (including online) or an online reference database such as Oxford Reference Online or Credo Reference. Searching Discover@Bolton will also provide you with a definition.

Ebooks and Books

Use textbooks when you require general theories, background information and related research on a topic.  Access your recommended module reading list material via Resource Lists Online. You can access online resources like ebooks and journal articles direct from Resource Lists Online and find out about the availability and location of print copies in the Library.

Go beyond your recommended resources by searching for additional textbook material via Discover@Bolton

Journal articles and academic databases

Scholarly journals provide details of current and past original research on specific topics carried out by academics or industry experts. Use the detailed examples given in the articles to reinforce the arguments and theories you have found in the textbooks.

Most journals are available electronically, but there a few journals that are only available in print in the library. Your tutor may be able to recommend key journal titles for your subject. 

Academic databases are collections of journals and contain articles from thousands of journals.  Databases can be multidisciplinary, such as ProQuest Central and SCOPUS, or specific to a particular discipline such as law or health. There is a list of recommended databases on your subject guide, as well as a full A-Z List of all our Databases. You can use the databases to search for journal articles for your assignments, but the most time-saving way to search for journal articles is to use Discover@Bolton.


Discover@Bolton allows you to search the majority of our databases* and the Library catalogue at once via a single search interface. Follow links from Discover@Bolton to access the full-text content of journal articles and ebooks .The availability and location of print books and other material in the Library is also shown.

You can access Discover@Bolton via your Subject Guide or the library homepage.

Use the keywords you have identified from your assignment brief as your search terms.  You will see a list of results, including a mixture of resources, such as ebooks/book, journal articles, newspaper articles, theses, etc. Use the filters on the left-hand side of the screen to refine or sort your results. You can refine by item type, subject area or publication date.

Our Discover@Bolton guide has more detailed information on how to filter your results

*Note: some databases are not included, eg. Lexis Library and Westlaw. 

Full-text access: some journals in the databases are Abstract only (summary of the article) and therefore, do not have a full-text link. If necessary, you can order an article via our Inter-Library Loans service - however, there should be plenty of full-text articles available for your research.

Searching Online

Anyone can publish on the Internet, therefore website information can be unreliable.  Only a limited amount of scholarly information is available on the open web, most is password-protected, requiring a subscription, so use Google and sites such as Wikipedia with caution, if at all.

However, there is a lot of useful information on the websites of government departments, professional organisations and university repositories such as Bolton’s UBIR.  You can find reports, statistics, legislation, commentary on current events, etc.  There is a list of useful sites on the Useful Websites section of your subject guide.

Study skills

LEAP Online supports the student Learning Excellence Achievement Pathway and provides online tutorials for academic skills such as finding appropriate information for assignments, writing essays or reports, right through to writing a dissertation. 


Always check your programme or module handbook for details of which referencing system you should use. Check with your tutor or in your assignment brief if you are unsure.

The Library provides guides for a range of referencing styles

For a large piece of work like a dissertation you may wish to use a reference management tool. Visit our RefWorks guide for details of how to get started managing your references.