Pick a research topic
- Read your assignment instructions carefully
- Pick a topic that interests you and meets the criteria of the assignment
- Identify key concepts of your research topic
- Need extra help? Try Choosing an essay topic
- Do some background reading on your topic using Wikipedia
- Using Wikipedia wisely (video)
Identify key concepts
Subject specific dictionaries and encyclopedias are useful for helping you figure out the jargon of a discipline and can give quick overviews of a topic to get you started. You can often pick up keywords to use in your search strategies from these sources. Try using Wikipedia or the reference tool below to find key words.
Developing a good search strategy is important
- what is your assignment?
- what is the main topic?
- what aspect of the topic is of interest to you?
- who has an interest in that topic?
- what other language might they be using to talk about that topic? do they spell it differently?
- when was it relevant? is it a new idea, or a long standing issue?
- what other factors play into your issue? climate, population, government, geography, etc.
Once you've decided which terms are the most useful for your search, combine them in a Boolean search.
You CANNOT search library databases as you would Google. You need to use Boolean search terms.
BOOLEAN SEARCH TIPS:
- Use keywords only, DO NOT search using a full sentence.
- Combine keywords for different ideas with AND
- Search by keyword for specific topics: Globalization AND women
- Or by country: Globalization AND China
- Combine synonyms or similar words for an idea with OR. Use as many synonyms as you want but they must be in brackets and have OR between each term.
- (international OR global OR multinational)
- Capitalize your AND and OR terms
- Use the * at the end of the root of a word to find all the forms of that word
- Use " " quotation marks to find a phrase such as "human rights"
Use Filters offered by the database: especially Scholarly/Peer Reviewed so you see only the academic material.
Some databases have a list of terms used to index articles in a consistent manner. These terms can be used to search for relevant material.
This list may be referred to as:
- Subject Headings
As you read through a list of search results, take note of any new terms that are relevant to your topic. Search using these new terms.
- Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University excellent resource for all aspects of the writing process
It is also important to understand the difference between Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources, including how to locate and use them.
The library's search tool Omni lets you do just one search to find books, newspaper articles, journal articles, and other types of resources.
Start with the Omni search box to search across most of the library's databases. Use the main keywords from your research topic. As you retrieve results, use the filters on the left of the screen to narrow or broaden your search. OMNI Help.
See Boolean Search Tips above in Getting Started with Your Research
Narrow your search by:
- Resource Type
- Publication Date
Fulltext eBook Collections:
For more productive and focused results, check out the section on Boolean Searching (under Getting Started with your Research).
Start with the Omni search box to search across most of the library's databases. Use the main keywords from your research topic. As you retrieve results, use the filters on the left of the screen to narrow or broaden your search. Guide on finding articles in OMNI.
- EconLit with Full Text
- PAIS Index
- International Political Science Abstracts
- Columbia International Affairs Online
- International Security and Counter Terrorism Reference Center
- Web of Science Core Collection
- World Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Abstracts
- Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
Tips for effective searching
See section above for developing a good search strategy.
If you find one relevant article for your research it can lead to other relevant papers by the following:
- using the databases, including OMNI, look to find all papers & books published by the author or co-authors.
- Explore the bibliography in the paper for more sources.
Grey literature is an important source of information for research. It provides access to a broad range of information and often contains new ideas. Searching grey literature also offers the potential to balance any tendencies for publication bias found in published literature. It helps introduce alternative perspectives that may not be represented in standard literature.
The main thing to know about grey literature is that it is NOT produced by a body whose primary activity is publishing. So, if you see Oxford University Press, Random House, Penguin, Macmillan etc. etc. it is NOT grey literature.
Examples of grey literature include:
|technical reports||research reports||committee reports|
|market reports||conference papers||white papers|
|clinical trials||podcasts||government documents|
|speeches||theses and dissertations||newsletters|
Other resources for finding grey literature
- Grey Literature - University of Toronto
- GreyNet International Directory of organizations in grey literature from GreyNet International
- Grey Literature Report - provides updates to grey literature on health services and topics.
- Alternative Press Index
Policy Reports and Working Papers
- Brookings Institute
- Canadian Public Documents Collection
- Conference Board of Canada e-Library In addition to the e-Library, look to particular Centres for research on specific topics. Go to Conference Board of Canada and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Select Sitemap. Under Special Projects you will see Centre for the North, Centre for Food in Canada, How Canada Performs, etc.
- National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER) Working Papers
- Policy File Index (U.S.)
- Social Research and Demonstration Corporation A non-profit research organization, created specifically to develop, field test, and rigorously evaluate new programs.
- EIU Economist Intelligence Unit - provides current and historical economic data and forecasting.
- globalEdge excellent free site from Michigan State University which has a section on Emerging Markets. After selecting your country, look for the Country Commercial Guide... Also brings together a large number of ranking tools.
- World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report for country rankings. Also includes the Global Risks report.
- World Bank, Doing Business provides objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 183 economies. Each economy is ranked according to 10 sets of indicators. These are combined into an overall "ease of doing business" ranking. See also the Regional Reports
- Enterprise Surveys provides country reports which provide a quick glance at business environment indicators and a graphing tool to create a custom graphic for the country of your choice.
- International Trade Centre - Countries/Territories - select pdf report for country
- CIA World Factbook
- The World Bank data - The World Bank also provides outlook information
- World Competitiveness Online
- World Economic Outlook (IMF) database
- World Development Indicators
- Africa Development Indicators
- China Data Online
- UN Comtrade Database
- Factiva (Globe and Mail, The Economist and the Wall Street Journal live here)
- Nexis Uni
- Canadian Newsstream Access to over 280 Canadian news sources
- PressReader provides pdf access to newspapers and magazines from more than 100 countries in over 55 languages. The collection currently exceeds 5,000 titles.
- Global Terrorism Database - provides information on terrorist attacks around the world since 1970 with annual updates
A small sample of titles available online through the OMNI:
You can order journal articles and print material directly from OMNI now. This service is free and has a very quick turnaround.
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.
If you need assistance with this, contact the Library Services Desk:
- 613-520-2600 ext. 2734