3. Processing the Information

Finding the information is just the beginning...

Skimming and Scanning



Firstly, you should be proficient at skimming and scanning, this way you should be able to ascertain whether or not the text is useful to you or not:

Skimming and Scanning

What constitutes a 'good' source?

Complete the worksheet below for a well known celebrity e.g. Rianna, using Wikipedia. Do you think Wikipedia should be used as a source in academic texts? Give reasons for your answers.

Primary or secondary source?

In Year 12 and 13, it is important that you understand whether or not you are looking at a primary or secondary source so that you can fully interpret the text.


A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.
Examples of primary sources include:

  • Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII
  • A journal article reporting NEW research or findings
  • Weavings and pottery - Native American history
  • Plato's Republic - Women in Ancient Greece


A secondary source interprets and analyzes primary sources. These sources are one or more steps removed from the event. Secondary sources may have pictures, quotes or graphics of primary sources in them. Examples of secondary sources include:
  • A journal/magazine article which interprets or reviews previous findings
  • A history textbook
  • A book about the effects of WWI

Validity and Reliability

Evaluation and Note-taking

By now, you should have established an effective way of note-taking. What do I mean by effective? Effective notes are notes that will make sense to you in three months time, giving you all the information that you require from that particular session or text. They will be succinct, cover all the major points and have details on more in depth, pertinent issues. They should not just cover what is in the text but your thoughts and ideas on the text as well.


Useful techniques:


  • Highlighting and annotating photocopies
  • Writing the name/web address of the source and author's details followed by recording key points, facts and statistics under clear headings and subheadings.
  • Identifying and writing key bullet points
  • Venn diagrams

What's a bibliography and why should I use one?

A bibliography is a list of all the sources you have used. You should always have one for any coursework that you do so that the examiner can verify your sources and give you credit for having read them. You also need to credit the authors for their words and ideas to avoid being accused of plagiarism. They should be organised in alphabetical order by author's last name.


How to Create a Bibliography


The most common international standard for referencing is known as the Harvard System. Enter the relevant details into Neil's Toolbox and it will generate the references for you.