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Creating an Information 'Wish List'

Once you have made a decision on which types of publication to use for the different sections of your essay or report you may face the problem of determining which sources to use. For instance, you may have read the introductions from four or five different books in preparation for writing your introduction. Do you use all of them? And if you elect to refer to just one or two, which ones should they be?

A good way to evaluate your reading - and to make sure you don't read more than you have to on a topic - is to create an information 'wish list':

  1. Before you start to read a new book or article ask yourself the question: what do I really want or need to learn from this source? Write your answer as a 'wish list' at the top of your notes.
  2. Next, proceed to read the text as you would do normally, making notes as you go along.
  3. When you have finished reading, look again at your 'wish list'. Are the answers contained in your notes? If not, the chances are the book or article hasn't fully addressed your needs.
  4. Highlight those parts of your notes that have been useful, and repeat the process again with a different book or article, adjusting your 'wish list' accordingly.

By going through this process you can achieve two important goals. Firstly, you will have ensured that you have covered all the questions you need to have answered. And secondly, you will have determined which sources, and which parts of each source, you should use to write the section.