Learning materials and resources libraries

Some advice on where to find learning materials and resources and how to reference them by Lesley Phillips

Traditionally libraries were the source of books, however most modern libraries have expanded their collections to include information in other formats from many different sources. Most public libraries have computers for internet access, and they usually have DVDs (previously video), magazines and newspapers available for patrons to browse, as well as local community information.

learning resources

Newspapers are excellent sources of up to date information as long as care is taken to establish that the topic has been well researched, and that the author is not giving a one sided or biased view. For example editorials may well be based on factual information, however their purpose is to present the opinions of the writer.

Library collections can also be browsed using the internet, for example eThekwini (Durban) libraries can be accessed from this link: http://elibrary.durban.gov.za and their inter-loan service can be viewed by following the links therein. To use this facility you would need to provide as much information as possible about the publication you need. The key information to provide is the ISBN or ISSN number, but if unknown the minimum detail that you would need to supply is:-

  • Author name
  • Year of publication
  • Name of publisher
  • Title of book

Academic libraries are located in or near universities and technikons, and are the source of scholarly books and journals. Unfortunately their lending facilities are exclusively for their own students, however their materials can be accessed using an inter-library loan service from a public library. Journals are not usually available in this way because they are easily damaged, however articles can be photocopied, provided that the cost of the copying is met. When requesting articles from journals you would need to supply:-

  • Name of journal
  • Year, volume and number of journal
  • Names of the authors of the article

Information from books can be outdated, because of the long time taken to produce and publish, therefore journals or professional magazines are often a better source of most recent information.

Many companies have subscriptions to relevant professional magazines or journals, and some larger organisations have their own resource or media centres where books, journals and collections of articles are stored for staff to use for research purposes.

The Internet

The internet is a powerful resource, and has revolutionised the way that businesses and individuals communicate. The internet gives access to a vast amount of information worldwide such as computer software, video conferencing, newspapers, magazines, films, books, maps, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and current news.

For the majority of occupational and vocational learners, the internet will often be a primary source of information. It is important that parameters for searches are configured correctly to avoid the generation of huge volumes of useless information. Also almost anyone can present information in a web site, and it can be difficult to assess how authentic or reliable the information is. To avoid using questionable information, web sites should preferably be hosted by government, or recognised academic, professional or industrial bodies.

Other People

Who are they?

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Managers
  • Colleagues
  • Coach/mentors
  • Facilitator/lecturers

Our interactions with others can be an invaluable source of information and ideas as these people collectively have a vast range of knowledge and experience that we can learn from.


The most effective way to obtain information from people is to request an interview, decide on your questions well in advance, and give them to your interviewee beforehand so that they can prepare if necessary.

In the workplace time is a pressured commodity, and interviews must be as brief as possible and carefully structured, to obtain the right information in the minimum amount of time.

Factual or more closed questions, such as the 5W’s (who, what, why, where, when/how) will give you shorter answers. A more open questioning style, such as probing, explanatory and leading questions will give you longer and more detailed information.

Be prepared to record the interview by taking notes, or using a recording device with the consent of your interviewee.


Brainstorming is similar to mind mapping, but there is less emphasis on making connections, and all ideas are recorded whether related or not. Brainstorming can be done alone, but is far more effective when carried out in a group situation.

Ground rules are important so that participants feel free to contribute no matter how far fetched their idea may seem, and they should be encouraged to build on each others’ suggestions. This method is a time efficient and effective way to learn information and ideas from others, as well as to explore what we know already as an individual.

Evaluation of Information:

Research can be a time consuming exercise, and should be as efficient as possible therefore sources must be quickly reviewed for their usefulness.

Source of information  – Evaluation Tips

Look for the date of the publication. This will tell you if the information will be current enough for your purpose. The preface or introduction as well as the contents page will quickly indicate if the book covers your topic and in sufficient detail. The bibliography will guide you to further information on the same subject.

Information will be current, but check the facts given carefully, and look out for opinion or bias.

Check the credentials of the authors to ensure that they are have sufficient authority on your subject.

Use suitable search parameters, check all articles for currency, ensure that the website and author is reputable. Note that Wikipedia, although a good starting place for information, is not a primary source.


It is important that a system of referencing is correctly and consistently applied in all writing otherwise you could be accused of plagiarism, which is use of another writer’s views or thoughts without acknowledging the writer. This is an offence that is viewed seriously in academic writing and must be avoided. There are several systems available, but the most widely used is the Harvard referencing system as it can be applied to all non electronic learning materials. In academic writing it is customary to cite the surname of the author and the year of publication in brackets, in the text.

At the end of the report a detailed list of references is given listing all sources of information in alphabetical order. If references are not named or quoted in the text of the report, then the end list of relevant material used for research purposes is called a Bibliography.

Locate the authors(s) names and initials1, the year of publication of that edition2, the book title3 (in italics, underlined if italics not available), city of publication4 and the name of the publisher5.
Hubbard, J. & Reynolds J1.(2004) 2, IGCSE Study Guide for First Language English3, London4: Hodder Education5.

Journals and newspapers:   
As for books you need the authors(s) names and initials1, the year of publication of that edition2, the book title3. This is followed by the volume number in bold4, then the part number in brackets5 (if applicable) finally the pages used6.
Carson, P.R. (1970), “An Approach to Intelligent Planning”, Journal of Applied Artificial Intelligence 384 (3) 4, 4-116.

Web sites:  
When listed as part of the references at the end of a report the name of the author1 and year2 should be given, followed by the title of the document or name of the web site3, the URL 4and finally the date accessed5. If any of this information is missing then give the URL and date accessed.
Coxhead, P1. (2009) 2, “A Referencing Style Guide”3, http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~pxc/refs/index.html4 [accessed 3 April 2011] 5.

Chose a book and one or two articles from magazines, newspapers and the internet and practice giving references for them.

Technical Terminology

As part of your learning you will encounter large amounts of unfamiliar or difficult terminology. Words, terms and language that are used within a particular trade or profession are often known as jargon. To deal with this it is a good idea to compile a glossary to refer to, as you discover the meanings of new technical terms.

Oct 2013

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