This course guide is intended to help geography and environmental students hone their research skills related to finding sources for their essays and/or assignments.
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
- Developing strong research questions
Do an initial search on Wikipedia for background knowledge
- Wikipedia will also help you to broaden your search terms
- Watch the video, Using Wikepedia Wisely
Identify key concepts and themes by consulting online reference sources
- 21st Century Geography; a reference handbook
- A Dictionary of Human Geography
- Companion Encyclopedia of Geography; the environment and humankind
- International Encyclopedia of Human Geography
- Wiley Blackwell Companion to Political Geography
To find journal articles (or books) by topic, use the following 3 options:
1. Search Omni - library's main search box
- 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.
- type in the keywords of your topic in the search box
- each search can return many results (much like Google), so you must use the filters to refine your search results
- try using the Advanced Search and narrow by Subject terms (controlled vocabulary)
- remember to login first if you are searching from 'off campus'
- use the Omni Search Tips guide if you need help
2. Search recommended databases for journal articles/books:
- GEOBASE - comprehensive coverage of all topics in geography
- JSTOR - digital library of journal articles, books and primary sources on all topics
- 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
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.
Step by step Instructions for searching with Boolean operators
1. Identify the main concepts of your research topic and brainstorm possible keywords.
2. Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) are command words that are used to combine concepts and enhance your search. By using AND, you are narrowing your search, and by using OR to connect synonyms, you are expanding your search. Use NOT in a search to exclude words. Remember to type the Boolean operators in caps. Here are a few search string examples:
(political geography OR geopolitics) AND Ukraine
"health geography" AND epidemiology
cloning NOT sheep
3. Use brackets to group synonyms.
4. Make sure to enclose phrases with quotation marks to keep words together, Example: "health geography"
5. Use the truncation (or stemming) to broaden your search. The asterisk * at the end of a root word will search various word endings. Example: cartog* will find cartographic, cartography
6. Begin searching for material with the Omni, the library's main search box to find books, articles and many other sources on your topic. Remember to filter your search by content type for each new search in order to find a variety of material.
7. Here are the filters to use for finding peer-reviewed journals:
- Peer-reviewed journals
- Subject (optional)
8. Here are the filters to use for finding books:
- Print physical item
9. Use Virtual Browse at bottom of search results screen to browse books.
10. If you need more help use the Omni Search Tips guide
- Find Maps
- Map resources @ CU Library (this link provides you with mapping tools and explanations re: types of maps)
Find print maps using OMNI:
1. Connect to OMNI
2. Type in keywords (example: Canada AND rail)
3. On the left hand side, under Resource Type, click Show More and Select the filter/refinement "Maps"
Scanning Maps from the Library's print collection
Carleton Library provides a map scanning service; this means that students can request a print map, from the library's collection to be scanned by staff (in pdf and .jpg).
Other maps sites to explore:
- David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
- Digital Map Collection (American Geographical Society)
- Europe: Google Earth and Google Maps
- Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection
- World History Blank Map
GIS: Geographic Information Systems
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