Researching and finding sources

Persuasive writing needs to be well-reasoned and backed by evidence. This is why knowing how to break down an essay question and gather relevant sources is important.

Finding useful and relevant sources is central to the research process, but it is also one of the most time consuming aspects of academic writing. This guide will help you to identify what an academic source is and how to go about finding relevant sources for your work.  

Sources are wide and varied, and scholars from different disciplines prefer certain sources over others. Sources might include:

  • journal articles
  • books
  • websites
  • governmental and business reports
  • interview data
  • legislation
  • archival sources
  • artworks
  • music
  • procedures and guidelines

You might use these sources to gather:

  • ideas
  • words and sentences
  • images
  • data
  • graphs and figures
  • tables.

The ANU Library provides a number of "how-to" guides which can help you learn about using the Library to search for appropriate sources.

Below is a summary of the most common methods for searching for sources. This information is provided by ANU Library. In addition to the online guides above, the ANU Library also offers several workshops that aim to help you find academic resources with ease. If you require more help, make an inquiry at the information desk in one of the ANU Libraries.


SuperSearch is a single facility that searches the majority of material to which the ANU Library subscribes. It accesses thousands of journals, newspaper articles, books, book chapters and reviews, dissertations and electronic resources such as websites and free online journals. It also links to full text articles.

  1. Access the SuperSearch facility on the ANU Library homepage.
  2. Type your search into the search bar and click GO.
  3. On the list of search results, under refine your search, filter by Scholarly & Peer-Reviewed for articles aimed at an academic audience. The column on the left-hand side contains options for refining your search further.
  4. Preview the whole record and read the abstract by hovering with the mouse above the record title in the list of search results (or when using a mobile device select the arrow to the right of the title).
  5. If you wish to access the full details of a particular item, you may click on its title. To access materials which are available online, you may click on the item's title, or on the Full Text Online link which appears at the bottom of the item record.
  6. The advanced SuperSearch option enable you to search for material by Title, by Author, by Publication, etc. These options can be accessed via the "All Fields" fields, which can in turn be combined using Boolean Operators, if desired.

ANU Library databases

ANU has a large collection of scholarly resources available on their website through their collection of e-resources and databases. The Library's databases are electronic information repositories that can include groups of journals, electronic books, indexes, and other multimedia publications. These databases are fully searchable and are often organised by subject or discipline area. Full-text journal databases, like JSTOR, allows you to find scholarly publications which have undergone the process of peer review.

Using ANU databases

  • Search alphabetically. ANU databases are listed alphabetically on the ANU Library homepage or the e-resources and databases page. For example, to view the databases starting with 'S', select this letter from the listing.
  • Search by database title. You can use the database search to look for a particular database, rather than having to look for it in the alphabetical listings. To search for a database type any part of its name in the Search by title field and select GO.
  • Search by subject area. You can also use the database subject search function to identify journals and databases related to a particular topic. Drop down the (choose a subject) list and scroll through the list until you find your area of study. Select a topic and press Go.

Full-text e-journals

Journals are publications with aim of communicating scholarly and research findings to the community of scholars and researchers. They are published periodically, i.e. annually, biannually, monthly, etc. and contain many articles per issue. These articles communicate original research, findings and ideas, and are followed at the end with a list of references and/or bibliography.

Journal articles are often considered the most valuable scholarly resource due to the strict and stringent review process that the articles undergo. This process is aimed at ensuring only quality articles are published. Information regarding a journal's review process can usually be found on their website under an "instructions for authors" section which outlines the editorial and peer review process.

The ANU Library has access to a collection of online journal subscriptions that have not been amalgamated into a larger database. These titles are listed under Full text e-journals. The information contained here is full-text, rather than citation and abstracts as in many of the databases.

Using Full-text e-journals

Full text e-journals can be found in one of two ways through the ANU Library website:

Using the advanced e-journal search:

  • Search alphabetically. Full-text e-journals are listed alphabetically in the advanced e-journal search page. For example, to view the journals starting with 'G', select this letter from the listing.
  • Search by journal title. You can use the search to look for a particular e-journal, rather than having to look for it in the alphabetical listings. To search for an e-journal type any part of its name in the Search by title field and select Search.
  • Search by subject area. You can also use the subject search function to identify journals related to a particular area. Drop down the e-journals by subject list and scroll through the list until you find your area of study. Select a topic and press Search.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar ( is a freely accessible web search engine. It allows you to bypass popular information and find scholarly information across a range of disciplines that may or may not be available through the ANU Library. Google Scholar searches and indexes books and scholarly journal articles. Like searching Google, Google Scholar uses a default topic (keyword) search.

Using Google Scholar

  • To access Google Scholar, to the Google Scholar homepage and enter your key terms.
  • The ANU subscribes to a large number of online journals, which can be accessed full-text through Google Scholar. Look for the 'Find It at ANU' link.
  • If the 'Find It at ANU link' does not appear next to an article, you can always try searching for the journal in the ANU Library catalogue, or search for the article using SuperSearch.
  • If the ANU Library does not have an online subscription to a Google Scholar article, you can request a copy of it through ANU Library's Document Supply Service.
  • More information about using Google Scholar can be found here.