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Professional Communication: Advertising, Journalism and Public Relations

Guide to research for ALR103

This guide is a resource to help you research information for your assessments. You need to be able to find information from a wide variety of sources while at university as well as when you work professionally a communication specialist. Please Note: for Deakin College Students go to this page to access your resources.

In this guide you will learn about:

  • Different sources of information
  • Using the library to access credible sources
  • Finding reports, data and media
  • Steps to planning your research
  • The importance of evaluating information
  • Referencing and keeping track of what you find

Watch the video below for an overview of the content on this guide.

Sources of information

For university assignments it is important that you explore a wide variety of information. These will include academic sources such as books and journal articles, reports from government and industry as well as newspaper articles.

Click on the buttons below to see a description and example of a range of information sources. These may also be a great starting point for theory, models and debates which underpin public relations and communications practice.

An information gateway

The library provides a wealth of resources as well as great advice to help you succeed at Uni. The library subscribes to many credible and scholarly resources that you cannot access via the internet so its important to get to know your library. It will save you time in the long run.

The list below is a quick overview of library services and information and where to find them on the library's home page.

  1. Search tools, including Basic search and Advanced search.
  2. Resource Guides, like the one you are reading now, contain tailored information for each discipline.
  3. Paid subscriptions to databases that are suitable for study and research. These provide you with access to journal articles, newspapers, images and more.
  4. Liaison Librarian staff. Subject specialist librarians can support you to develop skills in finding, using and acknowledging information sources that inform your assessment tasks. Connect with them here.


library resources

Planning your search

Research is not as simple as putting your search words into Google and expecting it to find exactly what you need. You need to plan your information search first. A small amount of time now will save you time and frustration later.

Here are the steps:

1. Document your search

Before starting your search, plan how you will document your search. This will help you plan your search properly and remember the techniques and will save you time in the long run.

Download the planner below and follow the steps to create your own search strategy.

Search Planner (DOC, 1MB)

2. Summarise your question or topic

This sounds obvious, but to begin searching you must be clear about the topic of your research or assignment.

If this is for an assessment, ensure you review your assessment instructions. You may already have received a topic, a statement or clues to guide your search. Write down your summary and check that it's clear and focused.

Example: Locate background information on the issue of e-waste and attitudes to e-waste using industry, government, NGO and media sources.

3. Identify the keywords

Now highlight, underline or circle the keywords or main concepts in your summary. These words can help you build your search strategy and may even be found in your assignment topic or question. You will need to update your key word list as your understanding of the topic grows. But to start, list single words or short phrases.

Keywords example: Locate background information on the issue of e-waste and attitudes to e-waste using industry, government, NGO and media sources. 

4. Think of alternative search words for each concept

Different people use different words to discuss the same concept, keyword or issue. So you need to think of alternative search words for each keyword. These can be synonyms, related words, abbreviations, acronyms and other words that are specific to your topic. Close reading of first results can also help you identify different terms and words. Be methodical and write these down. You could also look up synonyms using a thesaurus such as as Webster's Thesaurus.

Alternative search words example:

Key concept Additional words
e-waste electronic waste, recyclable waste
attitudes opinions, beliefs, perceptions, behaviours
background history, government policy

5. Combine keywords into a search

Now you need to search using these words

For example in the topic Public awareness of e-waste harm

The keywords and structure of a search in the library's advanced page could look like this

  • e-waste or electronic waste
  • harm or dangers
  • awareness or attitude*




How to find resources

Once you’ve planned your research ideas, it’s time to find out where to head and how to use relevant resources for you.

News media

Library databases are great resources for older as well as current newspaper articles or TV content. Here are some useful databases to search:

  • Finding Newspapers section of this guide provides links to access full-text content of local and international newspapers and magazines.
  • TVNews is a search engine that will let you find news stories from a variety of Australian programs, from state news bulletins to Four Corners, Foreign Correspondant and more.This document shows how to use the TVNews database.
  • Newsbank is an excellent source for searching across many local and national Australian newspapers.
Steps to access articles from Newsbank

Reports and data

Valuable and reliable information can be gained through the publications of local councils and state and federal governments on policy, statistics and legislation. These can be found on government department websites.

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provides official statistics on a wide range of economic, social, population and environmental matters of importance to Australia. 
  • Analysis and Policy Observatory (APO) is an open access knowledge hub delivering policy and practice research and resources including grey literature reports, articles and data. 
  • Advance google search (limit your results to a domain like .edu, .org or .gov). Watch the video below to learn more about how to use an Advanced google search to find annual reports, communication plans and other useful reports.

This video demonstrates how to use google advance to enhance your search

Company and Industry information

Consider using these resources to get started researching companies and industries

  • Mumbrella

    Mumbrella is a website covering of everything under Australia’s media and marketing umbrella.

  • Market Analysis & Industry Reports section of this guide is a useful place to start looking for company and industry information.
  • Company, Industry and Country Information lists other resources available for researching companies and industries including company reports, financial data, industry statistics, and more.

Journal articles

Use the Recommended Journals section of this guide to start looking for relevant journal articles.

And watch this video to learn how to access journal articles efficiently.


Watch this video to learn how to find books in the library.


Evaluating information sources

The range and volume of information out there can be overwhelming. Developing a critical eye for evaluating the information that you find is an important skill to develop at university. And it is not just important for your university assessments - this critical thinking skill will set you apart in the workplace too.

CRAAP is a useful set of criteria. Click on the tabs below to discover some questions you can use when evaluating any type of information.

Referencing and keeping track 

Referencing is a necessary part of academic writing because it:

  • Helps you to avoid plagiarism by making it clear which ideas are your own and which are someone else’s
  • Shows your understanding of the topic
  • Provides supporting evidence for your ideas, arguments and opinions
  • Allows others to identify the sources you have used

Universities use standardised styles to do this. One of these, called Harvard, is used extensively in the Arts and Education faculty. 

There are two elements of Harvard style: 

  •  In-text citing in the body of your essay/assignment which includes the author, date and page number. 
  • Reference list at end of essay giving the full details of the citations used. 

To keep track of library resources you have found, use these tools found in the library record: 

  • Permalink 

  • Email  

At university, your assessors will expect you to show correct referencing practice. Don't worry though, there is lots of helpful information and examples in the Deakin Guide to Referencing.

Below is an example of a Deakin Harvard reference for a journal article. The reference contains different parts arranged in a set order. Drag the slider left and right to discover the names for the different parts of this reference.


Check your referencing knowledge