Reference materials are a valuable resource when doing research.
Use dictionaries to help with terminology. Encyclopedias provide background information, an overview of topics and issues and often lead you to further readings.
- Encyclopedia of International Relations and Global Politics
- International Relations: The Key Concepts
- International Encyclopedia of Political Science
- International Studies Encyclopedia
- Globalization Theory
- Dictionary of Globalization
Online resources like Google and Wikipedia, while not always accurate, are a great way to orient yourself in a topic, since they usually give a basic overview with a brief history and any key points. Reminder: you cannot use Wikipedia as a source in your bibliography!
Searching in a library database is NOT LIKE GOOGLE. You need to learn how to build a proper search in order to get the results you need.
Step 1: Write your topic out in sentence or question form
- How does Western Feminism compare to feminism in the Third World?
Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords
- western feminism AND third world AND compare
Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept
- feminism - women's liberation, women's movement
- third world - developing countries, emergent nations
- compare - correlate
Tip: Use thesaurus, encyclopedias, or a dictionary to find alternate words.
Step 4: Add "Boolean operators" (AND, OR) to make a complete search statement
- Use AND to limit or narrow your search to results that mention all of your keywords.
- feminism AND third world AND compare
- Use OR to broaden your search to include synonyms.
- (feminism OR women's liberation OR women's movement) AND (third world OR developing countries OR emergent nations) AND (compare OR correlate) - Note: you can use as many synonyms for each keyword but OR terms must be bracketed for each term.
Step 5: Add wildcards to search for all possible word endings
A wildcard is usually represented by a *. This is also called truncation.
Step 6: Consider Key Phrase searching
Some databases search each word separately. To ensure that your words are evaluated as a key phrase, enclose them in double quotation marks.
- "third world"
Your final search string will look like this:
- (feminis* OR "women's liberation" OR "women's movement") AND ("third world" OR "developing count*" OR "emergent nation*") AND (compare OR correlate)
Step 7: Evaluate your results
If you are finding too many or too few results, try these tricks:
To broaden your search (find more):
- Find synonym for each keyword.
- Search for a broader concept ('Dog' instead of 'Poodle').
- Use wildcards/truncation.
To narrow your search (find fewer):
- Add another concept or idea to your search with AND
- Use more specific words ('Poodle' instead of 'Dog').
The library's search tool Omni is on the library homepage and lets you do just one search to find books, newspaper articles, journal articles, and other types of resources.
- Use keywords only, do not search using a full sentence. OMNI is not like Google. You cannot type in a question or sentence and get results.
- Use an online thesaurus to help find synonyms for your keywords.
- Use the Step-by-Step Guide to Building your Search above to create your search string.
After doing your search limit or narrow by:
- Peer-Reviewed Journals
- Resource Type
- Publication Date
More information available here.
Omni Searching on the library homepage
Identifying Relevant Articles
- Read the Abstract & Conclusion FIRST - this will give you a good idea if the article is relevant to your topic.
You may not find all you need in OMNI, so your next step should be checking the subject specific library databases.
Use the same Search Tips as found above in Find Books or see the Step-by-Step Guide to Building your Search. The databases are not like Google. You cannot search an entire question or sentence.
Tip: Most databases provide a way to restrict the results of a search to peer-reviewed or academic articles. This may be done differently from database to database.
Databases to use:
- Columbia International Affairs Online
- Philosopher's Index
- Political Science Database
- Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
- International Political Science Abstracts
- PAIS Index
- Google Scholar
DO NOT LIMIT yourself to these databases alone. For example, if you are doing a topic that is economic in nature, check the databases listed under Economics, or if your paper has a feminist slant you will want to look at the databases listed under Women's and Gender Studies. Here is a complete list of Databases by Subject.
How do I get material the Library does not own?
You can order journal articles and print material directly from OMNI now. This service is free and has a very quick turnaround.
You must be logged in to your Library Account to use this service.
Journal articles will be emailed to you and can be available within a few hours.
Print material will be available at the Library Services Desk and you will be notified by email. You can even have your material sent to another university for pick up. For example, if you live downtown, you may want to have your material sent to the University of Ottawa Library.
Watch this video to see how it is done!
If you need assistance with this, contact the Library Services Desk:
- 613-520-2600 ext. 2734
Research Skills Tips:
- Start broad, then dive into the specifics. Get a good overview of your topic (see information above in Getting Started...). Then start narrowing down to more specific ideas.
- Learn how to recognize a quality source. Not every source is reliable, so it’s crucial that you recognize good sources. To determine a reliable source, use your analytical skills and critical thinking. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this source agree with other sources I have found?
- Is the author an expert in the field?
- Does the author’s point of view have a conflict of interest regarding this topic?
- Verify information from several sources. The internet is a big place, and, for the most part, anyone can say whatever they want online—many websites don’t evaluate their content for factual accuracy. Use the CRAAP test to help determine the accuracy of online information.
- Start early!
- Stay organized
- Use the Library!
Reading Academic (Peer-Reviewed) Articles
Reading your academic articles is great but you must comprehend them as well! Peer-reviewed articles are full of academic language that can sometimes be difficult to understand. While reading:
- Use a dictionary to identify words, terminology and ideas you do not understand
- Use a highlighter to identity quotes and sections to paraphrase when you go to start writing
- Make notes in the margins
- Read the article at least twice!
- Question everything you read - not everything is 100% true or correct
- Think critically about what you read and try to build your own argument based on it
- Look for gaps – is something missing that should have been covered?
- Things you don’t agree with – it’s important to state if you don’t agree with something
- Look for strengths and weaknesses within the article
- Read the article at least twice!
- Then when you are finished writing – READ IT AGAIN to ensure you’ve included everything you want in your essay
Search OMNI on the library homepage for Academic Writing.
Help is available on campus at the Writing Services.
You may find the following writing resources helpful as well:
- Purdue Online Writing Lab
- Writing the Research Paper Video
- Student research and report writing : from topic selection to the complete paper
- Grammar and style
Tips to avoid plagiarism
- Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing.
- This is an excellent video on paraphrasing which can be a little tricky.
TAKE NOTES: writing down page numbers and references throughout your research is a good way to save time when you need to quote and cite sources
NEVER copy and paste material unless you cite it properly.
At the end of each paper/report you must CITE ALL SOURCES you have used, whether you quote them directly or paraphrase the ideas.
When in doubt, ask for help!
The library provides support in the use of
Please contact me for individualized assistance. I am more than happy to help!
- A - Z listing of numerous library topics such as Writing a Book Review and Avoid Plagiarism.
- Visit the Research Help Page.
- Ask a librarian online or by text
If you are interested in figuring out library research on you own, try the Choose your Own Research Adventure pages.