Where should you start your research? How do you organize your notes and keep track of your relevant information? Don’t worry if it’s all a bit overwhelming…the library is a good place to begin and we’ve gathered a few tools to help you through the process.
For a complete guide to research and writing check out the following sites. These comprehensive resources will walk you through the entire writing process.
Choose your topic
Check out the following handouts, or browse the information below.
- Library books are an excellent source of information. Start by searching your library’s catalogue for the following book series: At Issue, Current Controversies, Opposing Viewpoints, Compact Research, and Contemporary Issues for topic ideas. Type the name of the book series in the search box and click the “series” button to see which books are available in your library.
- Online encyclopedias are another great source for preliminary information. Try the Encyclopedia Brittanica (if you search from home you will need a password, visit your library for a password list) or the Canadian Encyclopedia.
- Online databases offer the researcher a great starting point. Start withCanada in Context, Science in Context, Health and Wellness or Greenr (an environmental database). These databases provide a list of current issues – click the “view all” button next to “social issues” or browse from the menu at the top of the page. If you search these databases at home you will need the password – visit your library for the password list.
- Newspapers can be a starting point if you are looking for up to date information on current topics, but remember newspapers often contain editorial articles and may not be free from bias. Most of the library databases have newspaper articles, as well check out the Canadian newspaper database CPIQ for Canadian content.
- Internet sources may offer topics. Have a look at Hot topics, St. Ambrose University Library, Pros and Cons of Controversial Topics, and the New York Times Topics guide.
- Refine your topic by brainstorming. Use a paper mindmap or try an online mindmapping tool such as Bubble.us, Exploratree, Gliffy, or Mindmeister. Remember to save all your rough notes, you will need them!
Download a graphic organizer, created by NoodleTools.
Begin your research
- Search the library databases for articles, newspapers, reference books and ebooks. If you aren’t sure how to search a database, check out the guides on the database page. To learn the difference between a library database and a website have a look at this document: Library Database vs. the Internet.
- Ebooks: You have access to a number of ebooks for research purposes – these books cover a wide range of topics so check them out.
- Videos are another source of valuable information. You will find that YouTube is blocked at school, so try other sources such as the National Film Board, the CBC Archives, National Geographic, or TVO.
The Internet is a critical tool when researching, however, with over one billion web pages it is important to know your way around in order to access the information that best suits your needs. You need to ensure you are using reliable sources in order to access accurate information. For a full discussion of how to critically evaluate a website, have a look at the Evaluating Sources page of the Virtual Library. The following tutorial also outlines how to best search the Internet.
Annotated Bibliography Guides
You may be asked to prepare an annotated bibliography as part of your research process. An annotated bibliography is a list of the sources you have consulted while researching along with a summary or evaluation of each source. For a more detailed description of an annotated bibliography along with examples consult the links below.
For help with citing your sources and avoiding plagiarism have a look at this tutorial prepared by Vaughan Memorial Library, University of Acadia.
For additional help with plagiarism, check out these guides: