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Library Essentials

Understanding your assignment

  • Plan and prioritise your assignments around the deadlines. You can find time management and study skills resources on CityLibrary Search.    
  • Note the length of the assignment and word count which will influence the content and time spent. Check the assessment criteria in your course handbook very carefully and make sure you address each of them.

  • Observe style and formatting requirements, such as font size, spacing, and citation style.  We recommend Cite Them Right Online for advice on citing and referencing and in particular Harvard style.

  • You may be given a topic but otherwise make sure your topic satisfies the assignment requirements, is interesting to you and that others have researched it before. Do some preliminary research on CityLibrary Search and make sure there are some books and articles to ensure it is feasible.

  • Ask your lecturer for clarification if you have any queries.

  • See advice from the Academic Skills Team. 

Selecting keywords

  1. Identify the key concepts.

    Select the main concepts that make up your topic and omit common words like what, the, of, it have etc. For example, if your research question is: The effect of academic libraries on the digital literacy of research students. You can choose the words/ phrases "academic libraries", "digital literacy" and "research students" for example and use them to research your topic initially.

  2. Consider synonyms and alternative keywords. 

    Finding synonyms for your main concepts gives you more options when searching for information. Synonyms are terms that mean the same or similar things. Use online dictionaries such as Cambridge Dictionaries,  encyclopedias or thesauri for ideas and definitions. 

    An example for the research question above is given below but there are more terms that could be used.

    Keyword  "Digital Literacy"  Students "Academic libraries"   Effect

     "Digital skills" 

     "Digital capabilities"



     "Electronic resources"

     "Research students"

     "Doctoral students"




     "University libraries"





  3. Try out your keywords on different resources 

    Do some initial searches on CityLibrary Search to see if you can find information on your topic. You can search Google Scholar and you also can set this up to search for City subscriptions off-campus, see our guidance. You can also do some preliminary searches on Databases for your subject, the EBSCOHost platform covers a large range of subjects. 

    Consider different types of information sources such as books, journals and databases which you may wish to use. You can find suggested subject resources on our library guides webpage.

    You can try different search techniques as appropriate.

Examples of resources to use

Table showing examples of Library resources you can use depending on your information needs
Information needs Library resources

Find books and ebooks

CityLibrary Search

Find databases Databases A-Z ; library guides
Access a multidisciplinary database platform Ebscohost
Find an article by title CityLibrary Search
Find electronic journals Journals A-Z
Find newspaper articles Newspapers guide

Library Guides

Library Services staff have created library guides as your one stop introduction to library resources and services.

The guides are easy to use and highlight some key library resources for your assignments. They contain information, resources and links relevant to subjects, courses or general topics.

Go to the library guides webpage  to see the list of guides available to you.

There are also some Library Services guides on topics such as: Accessibility and Library Services for research.


A database is a searchable online resource. Using the databases provided by the Library will help you find good quality information from reliable sources. A database may be dedicated to a single subject or cover several subjects.

You can access our databases from the Databases A-Z or CityLibrary Search or see recommendations in our library guides.

You can find a variety of information, including:                                                             

  • Journal articles
  • Abstracts (or summaries of articles)
  • Citation information about articles
  • Newspaper articles
  • Electronic book chapters
  • Images

Journal articles

You may wish to use journal articles from academic journals in your coursework. Articles tend to be more current as journals are published more frequently than books. The articles found in many scholarly journals go through a "peer-review" process. In other words, the articles are reviewed by academics and other experts so they should be of high quality. They may also contain original research, reports and/or reviews of current research and topic-specific information.

You can find articles by:

A 3 minute You Tube video on peer review 

Published by NCSU Libraries under a  Creative Commons Licence (no changes have been made).

Library workshops

Library Services staff run workshops for different subjects and topics throughout the academic year, these include:

  • Finding information sources.                                                         
  • Introduction to RefWorks.
  • Introduction to Bloomberg.                                      
  • How to do a literature review.

All the workshops are advertised on our library workshop calendar that is updated throughout the year. Check the list of upcoming events and book the session / date / time that works best for you.

Your Subject Librarian

All City's academic, research and support departments have a Subject Librarian and a Research Librarian..The service is provided by an experienced team who offer specialised support and assistance to students and staff.

For students we:

  • Act as a contact between you and the Library. Got a question? Please ask us!
  • Deliver tailored library inductions and workshops for you.
  • Provide individual research sessions for you.
  • Advise you on citing and referencing.
  • Advise you on finding and making the most of library resources to support your studies.
  • Build online library guides.