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Finding my Voice: Identifying relevant information

This guide provides information and resources in relation to QMU's approach to plagiarism prevention.

One of the hallmarks of scholarly study is demonstrated in your ability to identify relevant information from the sources available.

There are three types of information:

Primary information which is the original or raw data; this is often referred to as your 'source'. It is usually presented with little or no analysis. Examples of primary sources include: statistics, standards, legislation and company data.

Secondary information usually takes raw data and analyses it and presents it in a format that is easier to read and understand. Reports, newspaper articles, textbooks are examples of secondary information.

Tertiary information includes books and articles based on the research of others. They aim to explain research for a general audience. This may be useful as a starting point for your research but provide little substance to support your academic assessment since they tend to oversimplify, rely on too few sources and are quickly out of date.

The most important sources for you are academic literature. This includes refereed research journals and academic text books, which reflect upon and discuss the implications of results of research. This literature records and publishes the results of systematic and rigorous research. A systematic and rigorous approach allows the valid and reliable development of knowledge and theory. Research based knowledge relies upon evidence rather than opinion and anecdote.

There are other sources of literature that may be of value to you. These include:

  • census data
  • institutional records
  • private correspondence
  • oral testimony
  • research diary
  • original datasets
  • reports
  • dissertations
  • newspapers
  • conference reports

However, you need to check if these sources are the views of one person and are based on anecdote or personal opinion rather than the result of a systematic research approach. To be scholarly, you must be able to distinguish between different sources of literature and their different levels of value and importance to academic study, and then apply them appropriately.

In general, non-academic sources of literature should be treated with caution and not used to make exaggerated or generalised claims. For example, comments from a manager of one fast food restaurant or in one Health Trust can be used as an example of 'opinions' in the fast food business or how to run a department in the Health Service, but cannot be generalised into an explanation (theory) about the fast food industry or the National Health Service.

If you want to be scholarly and produce the best possible academic work/assignments, you have to work with the latest ideas and theory in your subject. To do this, you have to engage with, and apply, the information that is derived from research based journal articles or other academic sources.