The focus of this course guide is to introduce you to information literacy skills that will help conduct university level research.
Your assignments at university are an invitation to join a scholarly conversation by exploring topics in depth, formulating a unique research question, examining the research of others, then building an argument, and 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
- For writing a thesis statement, consult the following:
Do an initial search on Wikipedia for background knowledge
Find definitions, identify key concepts by consulting online reference sources
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 They are written by staff writers or free lance journalists and are not peer reviewed.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 these two types of 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. Who published the source? Can you guarantee that it has not been altered from the original? What sources did the author use?
When you are new to a discipline, it can be difficult to know which sources can be trusted. Verifying that resources are included in Omni (the library's main search tool), or are designated as "peer reviewed" in our databases 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'.
Here is a list of peer reviewed geography journals. You can browse the contents of each title to become familiar with the topics and themes. For help with this, view the Journal Searching feature in Omni.
- Annals of the Association of American Geographers
- Cultural Geographies
- Environment and Planning A
- Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
- International Journal of Urban and Regional Research
- Journal of Economic Geography
- Landscape and Urban Planning
- Political Geography
- Professional Geographer
- Progress in Human Geography
- Progress in Planning
- Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
- Urban Geography
To find journal articles, you have 3 options:
1. Use Omni, the library's main search box
- type in the keywords of your topic or use the Advanced Search option
- this tool searches most of the library's databases, simultaneously, for all types of material, ie: peer reviewed journals, articles, book reviews, books/e-books, newspapers, magazines, videos, reports, maps, etc.
- each search can return many results (much like Google), so you must use the filters to refine your search results
- Need help? Try Omni Search Tips
2. Search a specialized database for Geography
- you will find more precise scholarly articles with fewer results to browse
- recommended databases for this course include:
3. Use a search engine
- Google Scholar (accessed via the library's web site) is a large search engine that searches information on the web and provides links to full-text articles to which the CU Library subscribes, or to articles made freely available by the publisher. It also provides articles from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and scholarly articles posted on the web.
- Although it is easy to use and includes 'cited by' and ranking features, it does not provide full text without a library subscription and the coverage for the humanities and social sciences is uneven. There is no filter for just scholarly publications and very few options to limit or narrow your search results.
Use Omni to find books (in addition to almost everything else)
Here are a few search tips to find books/eBooks:
- do a keyword search in the box provided
- filter the results by 'Books' under Resource Type; to find eBooks, select 'Available Online' under Availability
- view instructions for finding eBooks on Omni
- when using the Advanced Search option, filter by Subject (a controlled vocabulary of words and phrases), then select Books, as Material Type. Here are some subjects to try searching that are relevant to this course:
- Homelessness, Canada
- Land use, urban
- Sexual Orientation
- Social justice
- After finding book(s) on your topic, use the Virtual Browse feature to discover other titles
- Need help? Try Omni Search Tips
Search eBook Collection Databases:
Step by step searching instructions
1. Identify the main concepts of your research topic and brainstorm possible keywords.
2. When searching Omni or a database, use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to combine concepts to enhance your search. By using AND, you are narrowing your search and by using OR to connect synonyms, you are expanding your search. Using NOT, excludes terms.
"Mohammed cartoons" AND media AND (crisis OR controversy OR tension OR conflict)
"Right to the city"
Ghettoization AND "New York"
rezoning AND "urban planning" AND Brooklyn
"Fulton Mall" AND Brooklyn
(exclusionary development OR displacement) AND housing
3. When searching for phrases use quotation marks. Examples: "racial profiling" | "right to the city"
4. Use the truncation (or stemming) technique to broaden your search. The asterisk * at the end of a root word will search various word endings. Example: disab* = disability, disabled, disabilities
5. Begin searching for material with the library's main search box to find books and other sources on your topic.
- Remember to filter your search by content type for each new search.
6. Here are the filters to use for peer reviewed journals when using the library's main search box:
- Scholarly & Peer review
- Journal article
7. Need help? Try Omni Search Tips
- Canadian Newsstream: covers 280 Canadian news sources from across Canada, including the Globe and Mail. Updated daily but some newspapers have a 48 hour embargo period.
- Canadian Business and Current Affairs: Indexing over 1,800 publications, it provides more than 700 publications in full text with over 300 with ongoing full text. Over 30 newspapers and important news wire feeds are also included in addition to the transcripts of popular CBC news programs.
- PressReader is a good database for keeping up with current news. PressReader provides online access to over 5,000 newspapers and magazines from over 100 countries and has a 90-day back file for most titles. Some titles such as the Globe and Mail require VPN to access. Library users may only access The Globe and Mail while on campus when using this database.
Other news databases
- Factiva (International coverage) covers global news and business information. If you click on the 'New pages' tab, you will find very recent stories from a handful of major newspapers. Maximum of 3 simultaneous users.
- Snopes - try searching 'George Floyd Protests: Rumor Roundup'
- Factscan - Canada's political fact checker
- Reporters without Borders
- Fake news and Content evaluation web site
- MEDIA BIAS/FACT CHECK is an independent online media outlet. This resource that allows you to look up publications (using the search box at the top) in order to educate the public on media bias and deceptive news practices
- You can also browse publications by their bias (e.g. left, center-left, center-right, right, and even questionable)
- For example, try searching 'The National Pulse'
- See also Country Profiles
- List of Educational Institutions and Libraries using this resource
The following web sites are tools to help you create interesting infographics:
- How to create an Infographic in PowerPoint - Youtube (from Seneca College)
- 21 Ways to Improve your Infographics (theelearningcoach.com)
- 5 Infographics to Teach You How to Easily Make Infographics in PowerPoint (hubspot.com)
- The 5 Best Free Tools to Make Infographics Online (makeuseof.com)
- Evaluating Online Information: Use the CRAP test
- Virtual scavenger hunt exercise:
- Select a publication from the list below. Who owns it? Does it have a political agenda? What concerns (if any) do you about it?
- Using Media Bias, find an example of a "left" publication, and briefly explain the bias.
- Writing is a powerful tool of communication that promotes original thought, but it takes time.
- Devote sufficient time to research and writing.
- Plan your writing and essay structure.
- Learn to write a focused research question and thesis statement.
- Edit and revise your work, days (not minutes), before it is due.
- Ask for comments and feedback from your instructor, TA or friends.
- Read your 'final' essay out loud for clarity of language and expression of your ideas.
- Communicating in geography and environmental sciences (the above noted Tips are from this book)
- Student writing; give it a generous reading (e-book)
Geographers most often use APA citation style:
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
If you need help with your writing, contact Writing Services. They can help you with developing developing your ideas, creating an outline and thesis statement and writing well.