Reference materials are a valuable resource when doing research.
Use dictionaries to help with terminology. Encyclopedias provide background information, an overview of topics and issues and often lead you to further readings.
- Use a dictionary or encyclopedia to find definitions and explanations of terms and concepts.
Online resources like Google and Wikipedia, while not always accurate, are a great way to orient yourself in a topic, since they usually give a basic overview with a brief history and any key points. Reminder: you cannot use Wikipedia as a source in your bibliography!
Do an initial search for academic sources:
Here is the African Studies Subject Guide to help you pick the right databases, search-engines and sources for your assignment.
Develop a search strategy to help you find books and journal articles:
Step 1: Write your topic out in sentence or question form
- How is African slavery portrayed in African writing?
Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords
- Africa, slavery, writing
Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept
- writing - literature
Tip: Use a thesaurus, dictionary, or encyclopedias to find alternate words.
Step 4: Add "Boolean operators" (AND, OR) to make a complete search statement
- Use AND to limit or narrow your search to results that mention all of your keywords.
- Use OR to broaden your search to include synonyms.
- Africa AND slavery AND writing
- Africa AND slavery AND (writing OR literature) - Note: OR terms must be bracketed.
Step 5: Add wildcards to search for all possible word endings
A wildcard is usually represented by a *. This is also called truncation.
- (writ* OR literature) AND Africa* AND slave*
Step 6: Consider Key Phrase searching
Some databases search each word separately. To ensure that your words are evaluated as a key phrase, enclose them in double quotation marks.
- "human rights"
Step 7: Evaluate your results
If you are finding too many or too few results, try these tricks:
To broaden your search (find more):
- Find synonym for each keyword.
- Search for a broader concept ('dog' instead of 'poodle').
- Use wildcards/truncation.
To narrow your search (find fewer):
- Add another concept or idea to your search with AND
- Use more specific words ('poodle' instead of 'dog').
The library's search tool Omni is on the library homepage and lets you do just one search to find books, newspaper articles, journal articles, and other types of resources.
Use the Step-by-Step Guide to Building your Search above to create your search string.
Once you have your results:
- To see only BOOKS click on Book
- To see only JOURNAL ARTICLES click on Articles and click on Peer-Reviewed Journals.
Because there will be many results, it is important to narrow your search.
- Resource Type
- Publication Date
How to do I get material that is not available in the library?
You can order journal articles and print material directly from OMNI now. This service is free and has a very quick turnaround.
Journal articles will be emailed to you and can be available within a few hours.
Print material will be available at the Library Services Desk and you will be notified by email. You can even have your material sent to another university for pick up. For example, if you live downtown, you may want to have your material sent to the University of Ottawa Library.
Watch this video to see how it is done!
If you need assistance with this, contact the Library Services Desk:
- 613-520-2600 ext. 2734
- Communication and Mass Media Complete
- Columbia International Affairs Online
- International Political Science Abstracts
- PAIS Index (Political Science / International Affairs)
- Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
- GEOBASE (for Urban Studies)
- Africa Development Indicators
- Africa Knowledge Project
- Historical Abstracts
- JSTOR (multidisciplinary)
- Google Scholar
- Berg Fashion Library
- Gale Literature
- Literature Resource Center
- MLA International Bibliography (literature)
- Music Index Online
- RILM Abstracts of Music Literature
- FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals Database
- Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text
- Sociological Abstracts
TIP: Click on "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" box if the option appears. This way you will only see those articles are that appropriate for your research.
ALSO NOTE: Do not limit yourself to these databases. See full list of Databases By Subject.
Citing your sources
Referencing your sources is an important part of academic writing. Why?
- it lets you acknowledge the ideas or words of others if you use them in your work
- it helps you to avoid plagiarism
- it demonstrates that you are using the scholarly record and that you can provide authority for statements you make in your term paper
- it enables readers to find the source information
- you don't have to cite common knowledge
Consult the Citing your sources web page or MLA Citation Guide. Consider using OWL Purdue's MLA Formatting and Style Guide. It is an excellent resource.
Tips to avoid plagiarism
- Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing.
- This is an excellent video on paraphrasing which can be a little tricky.
TAKE NOTES: writing down page numbers and references throughout your research is a good way to save time when you need to quote and cite sources
NEVER copy and paste material unless you cite it properly.
At the end of each paper/report you must CITE ALL SOURCES you have used, whether you quote them directly or paraphrase the ideas.
When in doubt, ask for help!
Email me, Margaret McLeod for a one-on-one session I am happy to help!
You can also schedule your own appointment with me (see above under my photo).
After hours, you can CHAT with a librarian if you need help. This link is available on ALL library webpages, and is called Ask a Librarian.