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INTO: Business Research Project - Finding & using library resources: 1. Types of Information Sources

 

To complete your business project, you will need to show that you have conducted independent research into your topic, reading beyond the basic texts to complete your literature review.

 

If you want your work to be seen as accurate and authoritative, it is important to draw on information and evidence from a range of different sources.

 

This section discusses some of the different information sources that you might wish to use to support your business project. 

1. Consider your research topic

2. Types of information sources

Research material can be drawn from from a wide range of different research resources. As well as using traditional sources such as books and journal articles, you may want to use news items, government reports, statistical or audiovisual material.

Some materials such as scholarly books and journals go through a rigorous 'peer review' process where they are analysed by experts in the field for reliability and quality. However, it can be more difficult to establish the provenance of other sources of information - for example anyone can create and disseminate information via the web. 

In an information rich society, it's crucial to remember that not all information resources are equal! As a researcher, you must evaluate the information you find and decide whether the content is scholarly, accurate and authoritative research material.

Books, such as textbooks, are good for providing an overview of a topic. They undergo an editorial process and are usually written by experts in the subject or professional authors. They contain reference lists or bibliographies so that you can continue to broaden your research.

Many books at the University are available in digital format as e-books. 

Books take time to produce, so may not always contain the most up to date information. 

Journals can provide you with up to date discussion of research topics as they are published more quickly and regularly than books e.g. weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually, depending on the publication.

Journal articles are written by researchers and experts in their field. Scholarly or academic journals go through a "peer review" process, where a panel of experts assesses the article before it is approved for publication, giving you reassurance that the information is reliable. Like books, the more scholarly articles also contain reference lists or bibliographies so that you can broaden your research by following up leads to related publications.

The majority of the journals available via the library are in digital format.  This means they are available to you any time, any place and ensures you can access the latest journal issues as soon as they are published.

A thesis or dissertation is a document submitted in support of candidature for a higher degree or professional qualification, presenting the author’s research and findings. Theses are extremely valuable sources of information, as they consist of substantial primary research in specialised topics and provide very detailed data and analysis.

They will also have extensive bibliographies, detailing the published literature on the given research topic.

Use the Finding Theses Quick Guide to learn more about tracking down theses in your field of study both at the University of Exeter and elsewhere.

For many projects you may wish to find detailed information relating to specific companies and organisations. Generally company information falls into three main groupings:

Company documents

Information and documents produced by companies themselves. These could include, annual reports, trading statements, press releases, reports, AGM presentations etc. These documents can often be found on a company's corporate website.

Company data

Key financial figures and statistics relating to the business. A number of resources can provide this information in various levels of depth. For the most detailed breakdown of company finances, try searching the FAME (UK) and Orbis (global) databases.

Company analysis

Independent analysis of a company's performance can be valuable for research. While you may find internal analysis on corporate websites, there are a number of databases which specialise in independent analysis; e.g.Passport and Marketline.

For more guidance on finding company documents, data and analysis, try our Finding Company Information tutorial.

Market research reports can provide detailed insight into particular industries on a national or global scale. Typical reports will contain information and statistics on the size of the market and key drivers / trends. Depending on the database that you use, you may also be able to access industry SWOT / PESTEL analyses, market forecasts, information on consumer behaviour and ​details of the leading companies and brands within an industry. 

 

For more guidance on finding market research reports and recommended databases, try our Finding Market Research tutorial.

Statistics is the science of collecting, analysing and presenting numerical data and can be a vital source of information for your studies.

Statistical data can be found on a huge variety of subjects including:

  • the economy
  • employment
  • the environment
  • government
  • health
  • international trade
  • manufacturing
  • population

A wide range of data and statistical sources are available to you via the Data section of the A-Z Database List. Databases covering the science of statistics can be found in the Statistics Subject List. Many organisations and governments also make statistical data freely available.

Use the Finding Statistics: Quick Guide for more information.

News sources can be invaluable research resources. There are various types of news sources you can choose from, including:

  • newspapers
  • newsreels
  • newswires
  • news magazines
  • news monitoring services etc. 

They provide contemporaneous accounts of events as they emerge and unfold, affording a snapshot of developments at a point in time.

By using news archive services, you can also engage in historical research by tracing commentary on issues over time, to identify and track changing political, economic and social trends.

However, remember that many newspapers and their editorials, columns and analysis may have particular political biases. As they are written with a different audience in mind, news articles will not follow the same conventions as academic articles and will usually not contain detailed references.

There is a huge amount of news research material available to you at the University. Explore the Using news resources for research LibGuide to find out more.

Official publications can be broadly defined as the documents and materials produced by the government and governmental departments during the course of government business.

Content ranges from statements of law and policy to government reports and statistics.  These publications can be a valuable primary research source and are especially useful to those researching in law, politics and history.  However, they are of relevance across all subjects as they address all aspects of governmental work such as science, education, law, agriculture, transport, health etc.

To find out more about finding and using official publications, take a look at the Official Publications LibGuide

View the list of Official Publications databases in the Database A-Z List

Search engines such as Google have made it very easy to search and find information via the internet and it is highly likely that you will use the web to find information for your research.

However, the sheer volume of material available means that sometime it can be difficult to find the information you want. Most search engines offer advanced search options that allow you to refine your search i.e. Google Advanced Search.  If you want to find academic materials, search using Google Scholar.

When using material from the internet, you need to exercise caution as anyone can publish information on the web so the quality and reliability of the information is highly variable.  Always evaluate the sources to ensure the material is trustworthy, accurate and authoritative.

3. Activity: Types of information sources

4. Explore your LibGuide

 

 

Use your LibGuide to access Library Search and key research resources for Business, Accounting & Finance.

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