Finding and using good information

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An important part of your study is dealing with information, including:

  • identifying what you need
  • finding the information
  • evaluating the information 
  • using the information
  • acknowledging the sources of information used.

These five skills are covered in this guide. Together they are called Information Literacy

Why is information literacy important?

Being information literate will help you write better assessments. More than this though, it is a skill for lifelong learning. It enables you to think critically when navigating the world of information, including mis/disinformation.

The video below gives a good overview of these five skills in both academic study and the real world:

(Seminole State Library, 2014)

Need help with finding and using information?

man looking at tablet screenWe have friendly Liaisons here to support you via email, phone, video call.

Contact us.



How do I know what information I need to complete an assessment?

oung asian woman with bleached hair and headphones at a computer

Start by reading your assessment instructions carefully:

  • Are particular readings from your course mentioned in your instructions?
  • Are you also asked to look for additional sources? A particular type? e.g. scholarly journals, reports. Or a range?
  • Think about what the question is asking. What's the topic?
  • Depending on the task, you might need to find information that: expands on the topic / gives examples / provides evidence, statistics etc.

Different types of information are used for different purposes.

The table below outlines what each type is useful for and where to find it. If you're still unsure about what information you need, check the Assessment Talk channel in your course, ask your tutor, or get in touch with one of our Library Liaisons.

Source Type Useful for Found via Example
(ebooks, print, textbooks)
Comprehensive overiew;
background and detail of a subject or theory;

Library (use the Catalogue search option above.)
Book chapters might appear in course readings

Oxford textbook of nature and public health
Company websites Company data, statistics


Organisational websites

consumer information, industry knowledge, statistics

Government websites policies, consumer information, statistics, reports
Journal articles

scholarly research on a specific aspect of a topic

Library (Databases or via Search everything or Advanced search options above)

Google Scholar / Course readings

The significance of music in early childhood education: An extensive observational study
Magazine articles

general interest stories, current affairs, examples of public opinion on a topic

Library (Databases or via Search everything or Advanced search options above)

Google / Course readings

Take charge of your health: Finding emotional wellbeing.
News articles

coverage of recent events,
general interest stories

Library (Databases or via Search everything or Advanced search options above)

Google / Course readings

Emergency services - an inside story.
Reports investigation/analysis of an issue Library (Databases or via Search everything or Advanced search options above)

Company/government websites
Course readings
BMI Research: New Zealand Tourism Report.

See our next section Finding what you need for tips and techniques to search successfully.

How do I find the information I need?

student looking at a book in a libraryOnce you’ve determined what information you need, the next step is knowing how to find it.

Which keywords you select and how you use them will have a big influence on your results.

Our Getting Started section has some handy videos and covers how to search in our library, how to find additional course readings, and how to make the most of advanced searching - particularly useful if you need to find research articles.

Our Subject Guides can also be a great place to start looking for suitable information for your assessment.

Study Toolkit 
The Toolkit* has lots of great information on searching. In particular, see the following sections:

  • Assessments: Research
  • Using the Library & Learning Centre

(* you are freely enrolled in the Study Toolkit - you should see it on your iQualify Dashboard. Contact us, if not).

What about Google? Of course Google is a very useful tool for information. Make sure, though, you see our next section Evaluating sources to make sure you are finding reliable information.


How do I know the information I find is reliable?

man sitting outside writing and looking at his phoneLearners often want to know if their information is trustworthy and appropriate for their assessment. Here we cover how to evaluate any source, and especially information you find when Googling.

Evaluating sources using the CRAAP method

The CRAAP test is a great way to evaluate any source. CRAAP stands for:
Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose.

Watch the video below, and see the questions that follow for how to evaluate the sources you find.

Using WH questions 

Another way to apply the CRAAP criteria, is simply to ask WH questions - Who, When, Where, Why, What, How.
These may not all apply to every source, but they are worth considering.
Refer back to this page whenever you are unsure about the reliability of information you have found:

Who wrote it?

What are the author’s credentials?
Are they an expert in the field?
Do they quote credible sources?
Do they work for an organisation such as an academic institute? Who is the publisher? Academic publisher e.g. Oxford University Press or a commercial publisher?

When was it written

How current is it? 
Is there a date on the source?
Can I find more up to date research?
Is this a subject area where having the most up to date information is important?

Note: Think about whether you need very up to date material. Sometimes an important paper may have been written a long time ago which is still seen as important in a subject area.

Where did the information come from?

Does it apply to a New Zealand context?
Do you need information that applies directly to New Zealand, or are works from international sources okay?

Why has it been written?

What is the purpose of the source?
Does the author have a particular point of view that may make the information biased?
Do you know the reason the information was created?
Is the author trying to sell or persuade you of something, or are they simply presenting facts, research?

What is it? 

What type of source is it? Website, academic journal*, magazine, news, book? 
Is it the best type of source for your assessment question? (See the section in this guide on Knowing what you need.)
Is the information relevant to your subject?
Does it provide the detail you need?

* Most academic journal articles are peer reviewed. This means that other academics have reviewed the information before it was published.

How accurate is it? Can you find if the information has been verified?
Is there a reference list? 
Are there other sources that back up this one?

Evaluating webpages and websites

As well as using the CRAAP method above, here are some extra tips to help you evaluate information found via websites:

Decode the URL

Get more information about the type of website by looking at the domain name within the URL. 
Check out the domain designator - the letters which immediately follow the overall name of the website. This tells you what type of site it is:

domain designator Type of website Example
.org Usually a non-profit organisation
.com or .net Commercial website
.ac or .edu or .school Academic or educational institute
.govt or .gov Government website

You might need different types of websites for different reasons. And, particularly if it is a commercial site, apply the CRAAP test below to check it's reliability.

Check out the links

404 error message iconAre there broken links on the website that take you nowhere?
This could be a sign that the website is not updated regularly.



Look for a date

Can you find when the content was written? Sometimes you'll see a 'last updated' or 'created' date.
(Note, the copyright date - often found at the bottom of a webpage - applies to the website as a whole and is not the date the content on that particular webpage was written.)

How do I use information in my assessments?

young asian woman at a computer reading a bookHow you use and apply information can have a big influence on the flow and quality of your assessment.

In this section we look at how to incorporate information into your writing.
Make sure you also see the tab on Acknowledging sources for how to reference, quote or paraphrase information.


When referring to another source, it should be clear to your reader why you are including it.

You might be adding the information to:

  • give an example
  • introduce a concept
  • show evidence
  • present an argument
  • explain something technical
  • present an opinion
  • other...


Whatever the purpose, it must fit with the main idea of the paragraph and be smoothly incorporated within your writing. It’s also important to show you understand the information, i.e. that you aren’t just throwing in a piece of information that sounds good without backing it up with your own discussion or examples.

Here’s an example of words used to introduce and link information. You won’t necessarily have this many sources in one paragraph, but it gives you the idea:

The process of making pasta is a skill that has been honed over centuries. Early pasta originated in China. According to Romero (2019) Marco Polo brought it back from the east to Italy. However, early pasta was very different to the pasta we think of today, and there are different opinions on what it was originally made from. Davis & Phillips (2019) state that the earliest pasta was made from rice flour, yet pasta chef and historian, Roberto Fellini (2015) argues that millet and buckwheat flours may have been the first types of flours used to create early forms of the popular food. A third theory is that a combination of different flours was used (Pasta Italia, 2020). Despite these differing views about the flours used in early pasta, it is clear that the pasta we generally use today is wheat based.

Wheat pasta is…

Reporting what someone has said is only one aspect of including information. As part of your discussion you may also need to:

link ideas, give examples, analyse, re-phrase a statement, provide a comparison or contrast, show a consequence.

Useful vocabulary

The table below gives you many more words to use. Try incuding these in your assessments along with the information you have found:

Type of word Examples

According to Parata...   

Jones & Allen address this by...


















Linking: sequence

firstly, secondly, thirdly




Linking: addition

in addition



as well as



Giving an example

for example

for instance

that is to say

such as



Analysing or backing up a statement



as a result of

the result is that

are resulting from


it can be seen that

evidence shows this

because of this



for this reason

owing to x

this suggests that

it follows that


in that case

that implies

in the same way



by contrast


compared with




yet however


espite x

notwithstanding x

in spite of x

while x may be true, it is also…



in comparison

by contrast

another view is…


compared with

in a similar way

in the same way




How do I quote, paraphrase and acknowledge information?

ferns in the sunlight

Information sources used in your assessments must be acknowledged, whether you're quoting the information (taking the exact original words), or paraphrasing (putting the information into your own words).

referencing system is used. It involves two parts:

References - a full list of all the sources you referred to in your writing. This sits at the end of your document.

In-text Citations - a brief note stating the author/year (page number) of a source. This sits along with the information you are quoting/paraphrasing within the body of your writing. 

Open Polytechnic uses the APA 7 style of referencing.

See our page Introduction to APA Referencing for a full explanation and referencing guides.