Your assignments at university are an invitation to join a scholarly conversation by exploring topics in depth, formulating questions, examining the research in order to build an arugument and draw your own conclusions. A good research topic is one that sparks your interest. This guide is intended to introduce the information literacy process that will help you conduct university level research. Begin with: First-Year Students: Library Basics
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? Try Choosing an essay topic
Do an initial search on Wikipedia for information
- Using Wikipedia will also help you to broaden your search terms
- For useful tips, 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 They are written by staff writers or free lance journalists and are not peer reviewed.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.
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
- find books
- find journal articles
- use 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:
Search specialized databases for Geography - these databases are more focused on geographical research
- GEOBASE - comprehensive coverage of all topics in geography
- Canadian Business & Current Affairs - contains significant Canadian content
- 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
- 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
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
Try browsing the contents of each journal to become familiar with the topics and themes. For help with this, view the Journal Searching feature in Omni.
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 (in caps when searching Omni)
Search examples: COVID 19 AND (fear OR stigma) "psychological aspects" AND COVID 19
- use AND to connect different topics 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, ie: gig NOT unemployment
- use the asterisk symbol * to replace word endings or variant spellings, ie: psycholog*
- use quotation marks to ensure that words are searched together as a phrase
3. Select a Database
4. Use the following database filters on Omni 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