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Triple 'A' – Understanding Information: Home

Thoughtfully handling information to find meaning and apply context is key to producing the best work you can. Absorbing information and adapting further searches will make it easier to build a strong foundation. The tutorials below will help you to do this.

Work your way through the four tabbed sections containing instructional resources to improve your note taking skills, understanding of different types of information for assignments, mind mapping techniques, and building a search. 

Students struggling to find and understand information can receive face-to-face support from the Library, a dedicated space where students can seek advice and academic support from subject specialist Librarian. Visit the Library webpages to learn more about our services.

Note taking and critical reading 

Note taking can help to focus your attention on what you are reading, watching or listening to and stop your mind from wandering. Notes can also help you make sense of what you are learning and when working on a piece of writing, such as an essay or a report, they are a good way of getting all your ideas and your evidence together.


There are two main types of note taking: linear notes and diagrams. Oxford Learning Institute at University of Oxford have created a hand out that provides tips on making and organising clear and concise notes, with an overview of one of the most popular methods of note-taking: the Cornell System. Click here to access!


The University of Leeds have created a handy guide that provides you with the three simple stages to making effective notes. Print out and read the guide here!

Download a copy of the tips for note taking to save and read for later from here!

Download a copy of the tips for active and critical reading to save and read for later from here!

Types of information

In today’s information society we can find information on almost anything we want. Increasingly sophisticated technology makes it easier than ever to find and access what we need. However, it also presents us with a dilemma: how do we choose the right resources from this often overwhelming selection? These resources will explain some the different types of information sources that you can use within your academic assignments.


Know your sources: types of information

This resource created by My Learning Essentials from University of Manchester highlights the strengths and weaknesses of different information types, enabling you to make informed decisions about the types of source you use for different purposes in your academic work.

Access the interactive tutorial



Academic journal or popular magazine?

A journal, sometimes called a periodical or serial, is published regularly - for example, weekly, monthly or twice a year. So it’s a good way of getting up-to-date news and research on a subject. Each new issue has a number of articles written by different people. So far, this could also apply to magazines. However, journals are aimed at readers with a more serious interest in the subject. Academic journals provide good quality research articles. Usually, the articles contained within academic journals have been peer-reviewed. This means that experts in the field have reviewed the article and decided whether it is fit for publication, or whether it requires further refinement. This ensures that only the best quality articles are published.


Download a copy of guide of the differences between academic journal and popular magazines from here!

Website domains and the URL

Look at the URL (web address) of the website. The domain name can help you establish if the information has been published by a credible source. 

For example:

Domain Published by

 - a UK university

          .edu - an American university

          .gov - government agency or organization

          .com - commercial organization

          .net - network provider

          .org - non-profit organization

          .int - international

The origin of a web page can help you evaluate the legitimacy of a page. Generally, you expect accurate information to be found at domains with .gov, .ac, or .edu and you can limit your searches to specific domains. However, you still need to evaluate information found via  any source to establish reliability, and don’t forget to check the information is up to date.


Mind mapping

Mind maps, also known as concept maps or spider diagrams, help you to get ideas down on paper when you can't think where to start. They help you see connections and provide an overview of key points. Mind maps are also used as a visual technique in revision. 

Mind maps are diagrams used to visually organise information hierarchically. Mind maps are created around a single concept or image at the centre of a blank page or canvas. Major ideas directly branch from this central point with further ideas and detail branching off from those levels. Mind maps are purposefully colourful and work well when combined with imagery to represent ideas, concepts, or information. The non-linear but hierarchical approach of mind maps makes them an excellent way to organise your ideas, determine keywords for search, plan an essay, or make notes for a lecture or revise content. 

The University of Sheffield Library created a video that explores why and when you might want to use this technique, explains how to go about using mind maps to capture, develop and remember your ideas, and suggests some tools you could use to get started with digital mind mapping.


Download a copy of the mind mapping instructions to save for later from here!

Building a search

When you design a search strategy you are planning how you will look for information. The more care and thought you put into your search strategy, the more relevant your search results will be. For designing a search strategy it is important to identify your information need and to make a clear definition of the topic.

Creating relevant search terms

The tutorial is intended to assist students with the development of effective search skills. The tutorial covers: formulating relevant search terms using mind-mapping, generating synonyms, narrow, broad and related search terms, and utilizing subject terms and keywords from found items for future searching.

Access the tutorial here.


Boolean searching

Understanding Boolean searching is key to searching many bibliographic databases. This video from the University of Auckland Library explains Boolean searching and combining keywords within different database interfaces.


Search strategies

The University of Southampton Library have built an amazing interactive tutorial to help students understand and form their own search strategies. By the end of this activity you should be able to:

  • explain what a search strategy is,
  • identify key concepts and key words in a search question,
  • use search tools and techniques, such as Boolean operators, phrase searching, and wild cards.

Access the tutorial here.


Download a copy of the successful research process to save for later from here!