The focus of this web page is to introduce information literacy skills that will help you conduct university level research.
Your assignments at university are an invitation to join a scholarly conversation by exploring topics in depth, formulating a research question, and examining before drawing your own conclusions. A good research topic is one that sparks your interest and allows you to ask new questions in order to find meaningful answers. This guide is intended to help you get started.
Pick a Research topic
- Read your syllabus and course assignment instructions carefully
- Pick a topic that interests you and meets the criteria of the assignment
- Need extra help? Click on Choosing an essay topic
Do an initial search on Wikipedia for information
- Using Wikipedia will also help you to broaden your search terms
- Watch this video, Using Wikepedia Wisely
Use online reference tools to develop background knowledge
Academic literature is written by scholars in a specific field and is peer reviewed by specialists in the same field so that only the best possible research is published. Scholars usually have PhD degrees in an area of specialization and are employed at higher education institutions.
Although many of the library's databases provide access to all types of sources, your professor will want you to use peer reviewed journals. These journals publish the world's most recent research written by scholars in all disciplines.
- Watch Peer review in 3 minutes video
Popular magazines and newspapers are also indexed by the library's databases and are primarily designed to entertain, as well as inform the general public. They are written by staff writers or free lance journalists and are not peer reviewed. Getting to know the difference between various sources is important.
What this means to you
For any resource that you wish to use, be critical about it! Ask questions. Consider who the author is, and what the purpose is of the author conducting the research.
When you are new to a discipline, it can be difficult to know which sources can be trusted. Verifying that sources in Omni (the library's main search tool), are designated as "peer reviewed" will reduce the risk of trusting bogus sources.
If you are unsure if a journal is peer reviewed, you can check Ulrichsweb. It is the definitive source that lets you know what type of journal you are using by 'content type'.
To find books:
Search Omni, the library's main discovery tool
- to find books on a topic
- to find journal articles
- each search can return many results, so use the filters to refine your search results
- Need more help? Try Omni Search Tips
- Remember to login first if you are searching from 'off campus'
To find journal articles:
- these databases are more focused on geographical research
- you will find more precise articles with fewer results to browse
Recommended databases for journal articles:
- GEOBASE - comprehensive coverage of all topics in geography
- Scopus - multidisciplinary coverage of all topics, half originating from Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific
- Web of Science - multidisciplinary coverage of literature in the sciences, social sciences and humanities
- Canadian Business & Current Affairs - contains significant Canadian content
Use a search engine
- Google Scholar (access it via the library's web site) - is a large search engine that provides links to full-text articles to which the Carleton Library subscribes. It also provides free articles from other sources but does not have many filter options to narrow your search results.
Select list of peer reviewed journals in Geography include:
- Annals of the Association of American Geographers
- Canadian Geographer
- Cultural Geographies
- Journal of Economic Geography
- Landscape and Urban Planning
- Political Geography
- Professional Geographer
- Progress in Human Geography
- Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
- Urban Geography
You can also browse the contents of each journal to become familiar with the topics and themes. For help with this, view the Journal Searching feature in Omni.
Remember: If the library does now own a specific journal article you can register for a RACER account to access online articles from other libraries.
Step by Step instructions on how to create a good search string
1. Select keyword search terms that best describe your research topic
2. Create a search string using Boolean command words, AND, OR, NOT. Search examples:
- COVID 19 AND (fear OR stigma)
- "psychological aspects" AND COVID 19
- gig NOT unemployment
--> use AND to connect multiple ideas and phrases in order to narrow your search
--> use brackets with OR in between the words to group synonyms together and broaden your search
--> use NOT to exclude a word
--> use truncation the asterisk symbol * to replace word endings or variant spellings
--> use quotation marks to ensure that words are searched together as a phrase
3. Select a Database
4. Use the following database filters to refine your search:
- Peer reviewed journals
- Subject (optional)
Tip 1: When searching Omni, the Boolean command words, AND, OR, NOT must be in caps. This is not necessary when searching other databases.
Tip 2: Check the bibliographies of journal articles to find additional relevant sources.
Tip 3: If you are unsure if a journal is peer reviewed, check Ulrichsweb. It is the definitive source that lets you know what type of journal you are using by 'content type'.
- Communicating in Geography and Environmental Sciences (e-book)
- Writing an outline (web page)
- Read Developing strong research questions (web page)
- Success in Seminars and Tutorials (book)
- Writing Services offers students instruction on developing an argument, structuring your ideas, and writing well.
Writing an Annotated Bibliography
- Help guide on Writing an annotated bibliography and watch the Video
- OWL Purdue Annotated Bibliography Samples
- Annotated Bibliography Worksheet