The Ocean of Information Accessible Version

Ocean of Information

The Ocean of Information aims to introduce you to the most popular information sources and helps you to see how each might be useful in the context of your academic studies as well as linking you to guidance on how to reference them in APA 7th edition format. If you prefer, follow the link to view this page as an interactive PowerPoint presentation.

We will explore 11 popular sources, starting with those considered to be the most academic. However, sources may float around the ocean, depending on your subject area and the quality of the source you are looking at, e.g. websites.

Conference papers

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Academic textbooks

Trade and professional journal articles

Reference sources

Audio-visual information




Personal communications

Social media

Conference Papers

Refer to these if your topic of interest is very new and little has been written about it in books and journals.

Academics present new ideas and research at conferences where there are opportunities for debates and discussions to progress new ideas too.

Papers are presented and usually written up and published as ‘proceedings’ which are often peer-reviewed.

If you want to find conference papers, Web of Science and Scopus are two databases which index conference proceedings amongst other scholarly sources.

If you are searching Discovery, choose conference materials as the source type.

Find out how to reference a conference presentations and proceedings.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Use these when you know that you want specific, academic information.

Articles are peer-reviewed, i.e. the quality of the article has been reviewed by an editorial board of experts in that subject.

They are published regularly, usually monthly or quarterly.

They contain articles, written by academics. The sources used to write the articles are included at the end in a Reference List or Bibliography.

If you are an undergraduate, you are unlikely to browse scholarly journals.

You can use tools called databases to help you search the contents of these and other types of journal.  Visit the Subject pages to find specific databases for your subject area.

You can also find scholarly articles in any subject area by searching Discovery.  Limit your source type to academic journals.

They may be in printed or electronic format.

Find out how to reference journal article.

Academic textbooks

Use these when you want an introduction to a topic area.  You are unlikely to read a book from cover to cover. Use the contents page and index to help you locate what you want to find out about.

They present well established ideas and theories and usually cover a broad topic area in considerable detail.

They are usually reviewed by an editorial board so you can trust that the content is reliable and accurate. However, be prepared to evaluate self-published works.

The book may be edited and divided into chapters which are written by different authors but relate to the main theme.

Use the Library Catalogue to find printed or electronic books in the University of Portsmouth Library.  Alternatively search Discovery and limit your source type to books and ebooks.

Find out what books are available elsewhere by searching Library Hub Discover or an online bookshop such as Blackwell’s.

Find out how to reference books, including chapters in edited books.

Trade and professional journal articles

Use these journals to give a professional view point to your work. They contain information aimed at people working in a particular trade or profession.

They are published regularly, usually weekly or monthly.

They include product reviews, industry news, exhibition and competition adverts.  Job adverts also feature.

Articles are not peer- reviewed, but are usually written by people with a sound knowledge of the industry.

You might want to regularly browse some trade journals relating to your industry.  Find them on the journal display shelves in the library or online.

You can use tools called databases to help you search the contents of these and other types of journal.  Visit the Subject pages to find specific databases for your subject area.

You can find journal articles in any subject area by searching Discovery.  Limit your source type to trade publications.

Usually referenced as journal articles but sometimes as magazine articles, depending on what information is given by the publisher.

Reference sources

Use these to find quick facts.  They are useful to consult at the planning stage of your research and can provide you with keywords to help you search the web or library catalogues and databases effectively.

These include dictionaries, encyclopedias and directories and can be in print or electronic format.

Use Credo Reference database to search an online library of reference resources.   If you just want a dictionary try the Oxford English Dictionary, OED Online.

If you search Discovery you will sometimes see a link to your topic in Credo Reference.  Look for it in the right hand column. You may also see a research starter as the first hit in your search results.

Find out how to reference dictionary and encyclopedia entries 

Audio-visual information

Visual arts students might use this for inspiration for their design work. Others may use it to illustrate particular points within presentations or research. It may also help with learning a language.

A-V information may be images, video clips, podcasts, computer games; any non-textual information.

Images may be from printed or electronic sources and just like other information sources, will be subject to copyright even if they are available on the web.

The library has some good quality image, video and sound resources for educational use.  A good place to start is the Visual Culture Subject Page.  For television and radio broadcasts, use Box of Broadcasts (BoB)

Find out how to reference images and audiovisual sources.


Maps provide context to a place, time and a narrative. They can show complex information in a
graphical form.

Maps can be topographic (showing general landscape features) or thematic (portraying a specific
topic or theme).

Maps can be printed or electronic.

Find good quality worldwide electronic maps resources on the Useful Links section of the Map
Library web page.

Most of our printed maps are Library Use only, although a few may be found on Discovery. Limit your source type to maps. If you can’t find what you want, ask the Map Librarian.

The Library has access to high quality mapping of Great Britain via the Digimap collections.

Find out how to reference maps.


Magazines are usually aimed at the general public, but can have a place in student research.  Vogue, for example, will be useful for fashion students.

Use these to keep up with changing trends, ideas or public opinions.

Articles vary in length and will usually be written by journalists. 

They are usually available in printed format or as personal electronic subscriptions. Sometimes they are available as library electronic subscriptions.

Find magazine articles by searching Discovery. When you see your search results, limit by source types to magazines.

Some magazines have their own websites where you can read sample articles and view additional information.

Find out how to reference a magazine article.


Here we consider the internet in general, not as a medium for accessing the Library’s online scholarly books and journal articles.

Use the web to find quick facts, current information, information about companies and organizations and information from the government.

Use the advanced search options to find what you need more quickly and easily. Search by domain name, if appropriate, e.g.:    UK academic sites UK government  UK non-profit making organisations    UK companies

Find good quality websites recommended by your librarian on the Subject pages of the library website.

Always evaluate the information that you find on the web.  Ask questions such as who is responsible for the site, why have they written it, how up-to-date is it. For more information take a look at the guide Evaluating Internet Sources.

Find out how to reference webpages,websites and blogs


As well as providing information on current affairs, newspapers are useful sources of public opinion and include reviews. They can be useful for historical research, providing primary evidence from the period in which they were published.

Newspapers may be local or national, tabloid or broadsheet, they may also be specialist, e.g. The Stage.

Tabloids and broadsheets are written for different audiences.  Compare news stories from tabloids, or ‘red tops’, such as The Sun and The Mirror with ‘broadsheets’ such as The Times and The Guardian.

Find and read full text newspaper articles from all over the world using Nexis Uni or Pressreader database.

You may find other recommendations for newspaper archives on the Subject pages. 

Find out how to reference a newspaper article.

Personal communications

You may use these to add a personal or primary research element to your work.

They could be letters, emails or they could be opinions gathered from a survey or interview.

You should always ask permission prior to including personal details in your work.  Contributors may prefer to remain anonymous.

Find out how to conduct good quality surveys and interviews using Sage Research Methods database.

Find out how to refer to personal and other communications in your assignments.

Social media

Useful for finding out what others are thinking.

These include blogs, and tools for sharing photos and information amongst friends and groups.

Use with caution in your research. How reliable is the information? People’s thoughts and feelings can change too!

However, social media channels may be the subject of your research, e.g. you may be studying how people present themselves on Instagram.

Why not follow UoP Library on your favourite social networking resource: Liblog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram?

Find out how to reference difference types of social media resources and blogs