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
- Wikipedia will also help you to broaden your search terms
- Watch the video, Using Wikepedia Wisely
Key References sources
- Megacities Our global urban future
- SAGE Knowledge Encyclopedias
- International Encyclopedia of Human Geography
- Kanopy - video streaming service covering a wide range of subjects
- The new Blackwell companion to the city
Writing your research question
- After gathering background information, one of the easiest ways to focus your topic is to frame it as a question
- Consider what you want your reader to find out
- Write down a preliminary statement that specifies your topic, states your ideas about this topic, and suggests the arrangement of your paper's argument
- Make sure you refer back to your readings and choose details that support your arguments
Useful books on writing
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
- GEOBASE focuses only on all areas of geographical research and contains 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 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.
- 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:
- Most databases do not support natural language searching. You have to be precise in the words that you select. Follow these instructions when using Boolean operators, AND, OR, NOT
- Join different concepts together using AND
- Use AND when the concepts are not related such as cities AND society. This narrows the search as both of those words must be in the information that is being returned.
- Use OR when the concepts are similar, and it does not matter which word is found in the information that is being returned. For instance, elderly OR geriatric OR aged. This broadens the search.
- Use NOT to exclude a word. For example: cloning NOT sheep
- Use truncation (* asterisk) when you want to allow for several spellings or variations on a word. For example: soci* can stand for social, socialization, society, societies, sociology, sociological, etc.
- Tip: If you wish to replace exactly 1 letter, use ? question mark rather than * asterisk. Example: wom?n, globali?ation
- Complex search strings are evaluated left to right so make sure that you are grouping concepts together correctly, use parentheses. For instance, Canad* AND (elderly OR aged) AND (income OR pension)
Why write a literature review?
- it helps an author educate the reader on a topic and bring them up to date on the status of the research
- it reviews scholarly published content on what is already known in a given field of research
- it uncovers gaps in the knowledge and any hotly debated subjects
- it identifies who the key researchers are on the topic and their methodology
- by writing a literature review, you are building the foundation for your own work by supplying the reader with background information
Selected web guides for writing a literature review
- Conducting a Literature Review (Carleton U)
- The Literature Review: A few tips on conducting it (U. of Toronto)
Social scientists 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