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IB English A: Literature: Finding and selecting sources


There is a huge range of resources available to you, and your most important task at this stage will be filtering these sources and using your time as efficiently as possible. Start by looking at the subject-specific resources for your subject in the box to the bottom right of this one to see which resources we particularly recommend for your subject. Then spend some time having a look around to see what is available, and talk to your supervisor or another subject specialist about the list of keywords you are building if you are having trouble. If you still cannot find what you are looking for, come and have a chat with the Library staff and we would be happy to help you. Contact Mrs Breag (LRB) or Mrs Toerien (JAT) if you think you might need specialist help.

Choosing which type(s) of resource to use

We have a wide range of books and subscription databases available - and you have the vast resources of the internet at your fingertips, so where should you start? Different resources are useful for different purposes.

Begin by reading the subject-specific resource guide at the top right-hand side of this page.

Effective search strategies

One of the most important features of any search strategy is the key words and phrases you use - computers aren't mind-readers although some internet search engines are very good at 'guessing', subscription databases and the library catalogue are less so. This can actually be helpful as you have more control over the results you get in a database than on the internet, but when you are used to internet search engines it can also be a challenge.

This keywording tool (that you may have begun to use in the Developing a Line of Inquiry tab, above) will help you to develop an effective search strategy, and will also help you to discuss that with your supervisor and the Library staff if you need any help. Don't forget to check the second page of the document for useful hints and tips on how to use it.

There are many websites with excellent tutorials on Boolean searching (searching using AND, OR and NOT) if you want more advice. For example, this one from MIT Libraries:


Search for books using Heritage, our online catalogue.

  • Think about using different search terms. The results depend on your terms being used in the title, as a keyword or in the abstract. Use the keywording resource above to record your search terms as you work.
  • Look at the classification numbers of any promising results. Other books at these classification numbers will be on a similar subject. Go and look at the other books on the shelves at these classmarks. You are very likely to come across other books on your topic that weren’t picked up by your search.

If you really cannot find any books relevant to your topic, please speak to a member of library staff or use the link on this page to email the relevant Librarian for advice.We might be able to identify books to buy or to borrow from another library. Similarly, if you come across a reference to a book that looks particularly useful that we do not have, let us know and we can try and get hold of it for you.

Subscription databases

The Library subscribes to a number of Subscription Databases which you can then use for free. These are high-quality sources of articles and images for academic research. The subject-specific resource guide at the top right of this page gives you some guidance as to which are particularly suitable for your subject. You can access all these databases by following the link above.

Note that there are different links (given in the document above) for using some databases in school or at home, and passwords are provided where necessary from home.

Note: you no longer need to set up a personal JSTOR account to be able to access it from home (although you can if you want to be able to save search results). It can be accessed via the Subscription Databases page like all the other resources.

Internet searching

Please read the "Subject-specific resources" document at the top right of this screen for guidance on how to search the internet effectively for academic sources.

The following is a comment from the IB on using 'online encyclopaedias' such as Wikipedia (from The IB Extended Essay Guide: The Research and Writing Process: Academic Honesty):

Note that, while you might use a tool such as this as a starting point for general background information and to help you locate other, more reputable sources, during the Connect stage of your research, you should not be citing it in your final piece of work.

Evaluating sources

Whether you are using print or online resources, you need to consider whether you think they are suitable for your inquiry and why. Consider the:

  • Currency: How important is the age of the resources you use? This will matter more in some subjects than others.
  • Relevance: Does it address your core question?
  • Accuracy: How do you know it is accurate? Have you checked it against other sources?
  • Authority: Who wrote it? What qualifies them to write in this area?
  • Purpose: Why has it been written? To sell you something? To convince you of a point of view? Or is it academically neutral?

The resource below can be used for CRAAP testing, and is particularly useful for websites.

Subject-specific resources for English

Investigative Journal

An excellent way to keep track of your investigation is through the use of an investigative journal. Using one page per source, you quote or paraphrase on the left-hand side of the page of any information you think might be useful for your inquiry, and on the right-hand side you comment on why you think it is useful, how it helps to advance your argument or how it fits in with other information you have found. At the bottom of the page you comment on the quality of the source. Don't forget to insert a citation at the top of the page - that way you will have all the information you need to cite this source in your essay. This is an ideal tool for using in your Researcher's Reflection Space. If you choose not to use it, think about what you will use instead.

MInimum information to gather for citing and referencing later

It is so frustrating when you are under pressure to write up your work and you suddenly realise you can't find all the information you need to reference a source! Ideally you would gather all the information you need as you go along, but what is the minimum you need to gather to make sure that you can reconstruct the reference at the end?

  • For books: Title, author, publisher, date and place of publication and the page number of any useful quotes. There are no shortcuts here!
  • For websites: full URL and date accessed. However, if you think the site is likely to change then gather all the referencing info at the start
  • For online articles (from a database), make sure you have the permalink if you are offered it, and the date you accessed the article. The title of the article and the database you accessed it from should be enough to locate it again if there is a problem with the link later. Don't rely on a URL - for some databases this will just take you back to the home page.

Researchers Reflection Space (RRS)

A Researcher's Reflection Space is simply a place where you keep a 'running commentary' of how your inquiry is going. In it for example, you might keep notes of how your question is evolving, interesting resources you have found and any notes you have made on them, your list of keywords, any questions you have for your supervisor or a member of Library staff, your inquiry timeline and how you are feeling about your inquiry at the moment. There is a dedicated space for this in ManageBac, but it is not compulsory to use that. You might prefer a physical notebook or folder or perhaps a OneNote document or Word document. It is helpful if you can share your RRS with your supervisor to help them to keep track of your progress. You will find more information about this in the Reflecting tab of this Subject LibGuide.

Normal term-time Library opening hours:
Mon-Fri: 08:30-21:15
Sat: 08:00-16:00
Sun: 14:00-18:00

If you have any comments, corrections or additions for this guide, or if you are having trouble accessing any of the materials, please contact Mrs Toerien. Please include the URL of the LibGuide you are referring to in your email.