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Books, Journals and Edited Volumes

Edited Books
Another common source of information included on many reading lists are edited books or volumes. These are collections of essays, each by a different author, that have been gathered together in one book by an editor(s). In this respect, each chapter is similar in scope to a paper in a journal, although they will not be as current because the production time for an edited book is usually much longer than for a journal. The great benefit of an edited book from your point of view is that they cover one (or a select few) key issues from a number of different perspectives - each author may have a different viewpoint. This is very useful if you are looking to critically analyse, because you can often see how different authors arrive at different conclusions about the same question.

There is a complication when searching for and referring to edited volumes. For the purposes of cataloguing your library will always use the editor's name. Indeed, it will be the editor's name that appears on the front of the book. This can be confusing because it may appear that the editor has written all the chapters in the book. But in fact, more often than not he/she may only have contributed one or two chapters (often the introduction and conclusion); the other chapters are by individual authors. So two rules apply:

  1. when citing edited books in your essays, use the author's name and not the editor's
  2. when searching for an edited book in the library, use the editor's name.

These days you can access a vast amount of information via the Internet. But be warned! Whilst there is definitely some good material out there, there is also a lot of rubbish too. Websites can provide fast, up-to-date information, but they can also propagate spurious, personal prejudices that have no place in academic study.

Your own department may have strict guidelines on how to use websites in your studies and you should always stick to these. But generally speaking it is all right to use a website as a source provided you:

  1. check that the site is written and edited by a creditable academic or professional
  2. that you always reference the site correctly
  3. that you do not cut and paste large parts of a site into your work. The same rules apply to selecting and using web-based sources as apply to using textbook and journals.