The focus of this web page is to introduce information literacy skills that will help you conduct university level research and complete your assignments for this course.
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
Do an initial search on Wikipedia for background knowledge
- Using Wikipedia will also help you to broaden your search terms and help you find Grey literature
- Watch the video, Using Wikepedia Wisely
Use Reference sources to find definitions
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 They are written by staff writers or free lance journalists and are not peer reviewed.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?
- 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 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 or journal articles, you have three options:
1. Use Omni, the library's main search box
- type in the keywords of your topic
- this discovery tool searches most of the library's databases, simultaneously, for all types of material, ie: journal articles, book reviews, books/e-books, newspapers, magazines,videos, reports, etc.
- each search can return many results (much like Google), so you must use the filters to refine your search results
- use the Advanced Search and narrow by Subject terms (controlled vocabulary)
- remember to login first if you are searching from 'off campus'
- these databases are focused on environmental studies & contain citations or full text links to journal articles, books, conference proceedings, reports, and dissertations
- you will find more precise articles with fewer results to browse
Recommended databases for journal articles/books include:
3. Use a search engine
- Google Scholar (access via the library's web site only) - Google Scholar is a large search engine that searches information on the web and provides links to full-text articles to which the Carleton 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 option' for just scholarly publications and very few options to limit or narrow your search results.
4. 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
- 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
Remember: If you cannot get find a specific journal article at Carleton's library, you can register for a RACER account to access online material from other libraries.
1. Select keyword search terms for your topic
- Choose words that represent the key concepts of your research topic
2. Create a search string using Boolean command words, AND, OR
food AND campus AND (organic OR gardens OR pollinator OR fair trade)
"single use plastic*"
"outdoor environmental education" AND "experiential learning"
"organic food" AND (campus OR university OR college)
- --> use AND to search multiple ideas and phrases in order to narrow your search
- --> think of possible synonyms for each concept
- --> use brackets to group synonyms together with OR in between them to broaden your search
- --> use truncation symbol * (asterisk) to replace word endings or variant spellings
- --> use quotation marks to ensure that words are searched together as a phrase
3. Select a Database from the subject-specific databases for Environmental Studies
4. Use database filters - to obtain high quality, academic literature, remember to refine your search by selecting the following filters:
- Peer reviewed journals
- Subject (optional)
Tip 1: Refine date range Filter your search to find peer reviewed journal articles. Many sources are published in different formats and written for specific audiences and do not have solid authority as with peer reviewed literature.
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'.
Grey Literature is a rich resource of information produced by professional organizations, government bodies, research centres, industry and business professionals, etc. This type of literature is not controlled by the commercial publishing industry and is usually very current and a voice for experts not associated with academic institutions.
- Consult the Grey Literature guide for help on searching this type of literature
- Some examples include: newsletters, posters, government reports, maps, web sites, speeches, interviews, lecture notes, theses/dissertations, policy briefs.
- Grey literature is also found via social media such as: internet forums, blogs, wikis, YouTube, and social networking platforms such as Facebook
- Find grey literaure by using the sources listed under Useful Websites and by searching and filtering your searches on Omni
- Canadian Federation of Students - Task Force on Campus Food Services
- CAUT Bulletin Archives - Sustainability movement grows across Canadian Campuses
- Concordia Food Groups
- CU Housing and Residence Life Services
- CUAG art exhibitions
- Farm to Cafeteria Canada - On campus food systems
- Ottawa Museum Network
- Stockholm Resilience Centre
- Sustainability Carleton
- UBC Green Building Action Plan
- UCLA Sustainability On Campus Housing
- U California Davis - Sustainability
- U Ottawa Office of Campus Sustainability
- U Oxford - Sustainability
- U Waterloo Sustainability Projects and Initiatives
- University Affairs - Campus Food Revolution
- Writing an outline
- Read Developing strong research questions
- Writing Services offers students instruction on developing an argument, structuring your ideas, and writing well.
- Recommended e-book: Student writing; give it a generous reading
Writing an Annotated Bibliography
- View the Help guide on Writing an annotated bibliography
- Watch the video
- OWL Purdue Annotated Bibliography Samples
- Annotated Bibliography Worksheet