Tips of the trainer: REFERENCE SOURCES

Do you know where to turn when you need some information on deadline? Cleland Thom’s quiz will test your reference knowhow.

They say a journalist is only as good as his sources. But these should include books as well as people. Reporters often dig basic information out the hard way, blissfully unaware that it is easy to find, if they knew where to look. It’s worth spending a couple of hours in the local library’s reference section to find out which information is stored where.

Librarians can be helpful – they will give you a guided tour if you ask them.

Test yourself with the following 10 questions – see how good you are at knowing where to find things quickly.

1. You want to know the name of the MP for Enfield and Southgate, along with his majority.

2. A soldier has the letters GC OM KCB after his name. You want to know what the letters stand for.

3. A lorry has crashed into the River Cherwell, near King’s Sutton. How do you track down the village?

4. You want to find out whether Gulf War naval hero Captain Pugwash has the DSC or the DSC and Bar. Where do you check?

5. Police will not tell you the name of the owner of a large luxury yacht that has been stolen from a marina. You know the boat’s name. How do you find out who owns it?

6. You want to see some contracts and receipts held by a police force. How do you get them?

7. Reverend Peter Pan has just been appointed vicar of St Mugthorpe’s Church. Where can you find out more details about him if he is away on holiday and cannot speak to you?

8. The battleship Ark Royal is undergoing a £3m refit. Where do you find out facts about the vessel?

9. Two Fred Browns live in the same street. How do you get the house number of the one you want to speak to about a car crash?

10. You want to check the spelling of the name of a barrister who represented the crown in a major court case – but his office is shut.

Most of these details are available on websites, of course – provided you know their addresses or can do an effective search. Is it time for a refresher visit to the local library?


1. Dod’s Parliamentary Companion. 2. Dictionary of Abbreviations. 3. Gazette of the British Isles. 4. Navy List; 5. Lloyd’s Register of Yachts. 6. Ask them – quoting the Audit Commission Act 1988, which gives us the right to inspect them. 7. Crockford’s Clerical Directory. 8. Jane’s Fighting Ships. 9. Try the phone directory – ring them both and see who is who. Or try the electoral roll – but it may be incomplete and out of date. 10. Solicitors’ and Barristers’ Year Book.

Cleland Thom runs Journalism Training Services. Contact cleland.thom@tesco.net or visit www.ctjts.com

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