On this page: It is important to assess, before anything else, what it is you are being asked to do.
The directives in essay questions are often very specific and require that you deal with the question in a particular way.
Don't forget that one of the best ways to source relevant material for your essay is to ‘snowball’ your reading: i.e.
to use the footnotes and bibliographies of the books you already have to extend your reading list on a subject.
A very good guide to these directives can be found in our essay writing area: Interpreting Essay Questions.
Most universities will give you library access, which means you have a wealth of material available to you - your search should not be limited to books, but also may include journals/periodical collections, theses, videos, DVDs, e-books, e-journals, access to electronic resources and databases.Many universities have specific variations within these general conventions and you should check with your university whether a specific referencing style is required.There are two British Standards that outline referencing styles.An essay which merely summarises other people's thoughts without analysing each opinion or finding will score very little marks.You need to develop your own arguments and use other people's findings and opinions to support them.A good search statement can be applied to whichever sources you might decide to use, such as specific computer databases or library catalogues.The next step will be to decide, based on your formulated search statement, which will be the most relevant, appropriate resources in your subject area.With so much material available to you, translating your essay question into a search strategy or statement is an important first step in tracking down the information you need.Your development of a search strategy must start with thinking about the kinds of words related to your topic that you might expect to find in books or in newspaper articles.An excellent guide to notetaking for essays can be found online here: Notetaking Effectively There are two main methods of referencing articles in published journal and book publications.These are known as the Harvard (author-date) and Vancouver (author-number) reference systems.