Research Help

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Introduction to Research Skills

Students in COMM1016 (Communication Essentials) are asked to watch the five videos below. The introduction to research quiz found in your Blackboard course is based on these videos.

The library hopes to see you for an in-person review. Want to see the review PPT again? Here it is.

Want to hear the review again? Or maybe you take Communication Essentials online? Watch the screencasts of the presentation here.

Books, Videos, and Articles: What are They Good for Anyway?

This video examines key differences between books, videos, and articles, and shows you how to find them using MultiSearch.

Books, Videos, and Articles: What are They Good for Anyway?
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Books, Videos, and Articles: What are They Good for Anyway?

There are many different types of resources, such as books, articles, and videos, and they can be either in a physical format or an electronic format. In any database, including MultiSearch, you may find any or all of these resource types. Each of them provides a certain kind of information. Look at your assignment to determine what specific types of resources you may require.

Let’s look at books and ebooks first. They can be a great starting point for background reading because they often provide an overview of your topic. Books can help you to understand how your topic is structured, and what other topics may be related to it. It’s easy to identify books in your MultiSearch results list by the image of the book’s cover and the word “book” under the image. In order to find a physical book in the library, you need to know its Call Number, which is the number on the spine of the book that shows which campus library it’s in, and its shelf location. Ebooks will have a link in MultiSearch that takes you to the entire book online.

The library offers DVDs as well as streamed video. They provide a visual representation of your topic and may be useful for presentations. Depending on your learning style, you may find it helpful to watch a video and listen to its discussion of your topic. Some streamed videos have closed captioning, and some offer a transcript as well. In MultiSearch, you can identify video resources by the words “Video Recording” under the image. If you see the words “Online Access,” you’ll know that the video is available as streamed video. You can click on the Online Access link to view it.

Articles are found in different types of publications, such as magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. Each of these may be found in a physical or electronic format. Each type of article has unique features and is best used for specific purposes.

Scholarly articles are published in scholarly or academic journals. Each journal is focused on a specific subject or field of study. Often the title of the publication describes its content, for example the Journal of Applied Psychology. Scholarly or academic journal articles are written by experts in a certain field, and the articles may have been reviewed by other experts prior to publication. They often use technical language that is specific to the field of study, and focus on a very narrow topic.

Newspaper articles are good for finding current information or reports that were written soon after events occurred. They tend to be brief and are written in a simple, readable style.

Trade magazines and journals are published for a specific industry or profession and contain articles relevant to that field. They are good sources for overviews of issues and trends, identifying groups or associations, and for finding related advertising and industry contacts.

Popular magazines are good sources for overviews of issues and current events. They tend to appeal to a wide audience, and are often considered to be entertainment. In MultiSearch, each type of article will have a specific image and corresponding label beside it. Scholarly articles are labeled as “Academic Journal,” popular and trade articles are both labeled as “Periodical,” and newspaper articles as “News.” When you’re researching, remember to look for the specific types of resources that your assignment may require, and remember that each resource type is best at providing a certain kind of information on your topic.

Taming Your Research Topic

This video shows you how to refine a topic into a manageable research question, and generate keywords to use in your search.

Taming Your Research Topic
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Taming Your Research Topic

Imagine that you have been given a research assignment, and your topic is social media. That’s a very broad topic. So how do you narrow it down to make it more manageable?

Start by stating your topic as a question. “Social media” isn’t a research question, so you need to develop one.

You could narrow down your topic by looking at one particular aspect of it, or at a certain perspective. For example, you could look at a specific industry or field and research the question, “How can health care practitioners use social media to share information about public health?” Another way to narrow your topic is by looking at it in relation to social, political, or economic issues. You might ask, “What kind of social media advertising is most effective in increasing donations to a charity?” Or perhaps you want to look at specific processes or technologies instead.

You could also narrow your topic by considering a specific population group, such as men, women, students, Aboriginal people, children, or people working in a particular field or profession. For example, “What factors influence teens to favour one social media platform over another?” You could also examine it in relation to a specific location, such as Canada or Ontario, or consider its relationship to another topic -- for example, “How does frequent use of social media affect interpersonal relationships?”

Once you have restated your broad topic as a narrower, more manageable research question, your next step is to determine keywords to use in your search for resources.

Identify the main concepts or ideas in your research question. They will be your keywords. Keywords can be single words or phrases.

Let’s find the keywords for the research question, “How does frequent use of social media affect interpersonal relationships?”

Remember, keywords are the main concepts or ideas. So the keywords for this question are social media and interpersonal relationships. “Affect” is not a keyword because it describes a relationship, and relationship words don’t produce good search results. Some other relationship words are rate, impact, and advantage.

There are many different ways to come up with keywords. Search a thesaurus, or find a book on your topic (perhaps even your textbook) and skim the table of contents or a chapter to identify terms. If you have an article that’s relevant, read it and look for keywords. You can have a look at any other resources referenced within that article, too. Have you found a website that’s on topic? What terminology does it use? You can also search Google or Wikipedia to get ideas. Remember that Wikipedia is not considered a credible academic source, but you can certainly use it to brainstorm keywords.

With a clear research question and a list of keywords, you are ready to proceed with your research.

Getting Better Results

This video introduces you to the connectors AND and OR, which can be used to narrow or broaden your search.

Getting Better Results
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Getting Better Results

Once you’ve chosen the keywords that you’re going to use for your search, the next step is to connect them together to find the most relevant results for your research question. We’re researching the question, “How does frequent use of social media affect interpersonal relationships?”

Let’s use MultiSearch, which is located on the home page of the library website at Enter the keywords “social media” in the MultiSearch box, then click the Search button.

Notice how many results MultiSearch has found for your keywords “social media.” Let’s not review this list of potential resources just yet. Instead, let’s build a better search by adding your next keyword in the second search box. It’s important to remember that each concept from your research question should be placed in its own search box.

Enter your keywords “interpersonal relationships” in the second search box and click Search.

MultiSearch automatically applies the connector AND to combine your keywords into one search. Notice that entering another search term has caused the number of results to decrease. MultiSearch is displaying results that contain the terms social media *and* interpersonal relationships. It retrieved only the resources that matched both of the keywords. This means the results are more focused and relevant to your research question.

When you don’t get enough results, you should check your spelling and look for typos. In some cases you might also want to consider using alternate keywords, which are different words or phrases that have the same meaning as your main keywords.

For example, if you’re searching the keyword First Nations, you may want to consider broadening your search by adding terms such as indigenous peoples or Aboriginal as well.

You can use the connector OR to include alternate keywords in your search. They must be placed in the same search box as the corresponding main keyword. You’ll have to type the connector OR between the keywords – MultiSearch does not do this part for you, as it does with the connector AND. MultiSearch will find results that match any one of the keywords that you’ve entered, and your number of relevant search results should increase.

Connecting the main ideas from your research question together allows you to search efficiently and to find the most relevant results.

Search Results - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This video shows you how to search for scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles, evaluate your search results, and locate the information required for referencing an article.

Search Results - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
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Search Results - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Once you have your search results, you need to evaluate them so that you can choose the best resources for your topic and your specific assignment.

You should start by carefully reviewing your assignment to make sure that you understand the requirements. Does your assignment specify a resource type that you need to use, such as books, videos, or articles? Does it tell you a minimum number of resources that you must use? Does it specify a date range for the resources, for example articles published in the last five years? Do the resources have to be certain length, such as more than five pages or fewer than ten pages?

In addition to looking at your assignment, you also need to consider your specific topic and how it may affect your selection of resources. For example, does it make sense for you to choose resources that were published very recently, or would it be better to use resources from a specific time in the past? If you were researching recent developments in the law, you would want the most up-to-date information. If you were looking at how attitudes toward mental health have changed over the last twenty years, you would probably want to review resources published in the past as well as recent publications.

Let’s look at a process that you can use when you’re reviewing your list of search results for potentially helpful resources.

Step one is to review the titles and the subjects of items in your search results list, looking for the keywords that you searched. They will be in bold type. Resources that have your keywords in their title and subjects may be more relevant to your topic. You should also check whether the items in your results list meet your assignment requirements, such as resource type, length, and date.

Step two is clicking on the title of a relevant item in order to read more details about it. Different details will be available depending on the resource type you are looking at. An article may have an abstract, which is a summary of the main points of the article, while a book or video may have a table of contents or a description.

If the chosen item passes both step one and step two, you should proceed to read the complete item with your research question and assignment in mind.

Select the full text icon to view a full article. You can also use the buttons on the right side of the screen to print, email, or save the article. For ebooks and streaming videos, click “Online Access.”

And if you use the item for your assignment, remember to include it in your reference list.

Who wrote this and where did I find it? Citation and Referencing Tips

This video gives tips citation and referencing.

Who wrote this and where did I find it? Citation and Referencing Tips
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Who wrote this and where did I find it? Citation and Referencing Tips

When you take ideas from someone else’s work and incorporate those ideas into your own work, you need to give credit to the author. If you don’t, you are passing that author’s ideas or words off as your own, and that is plagiarism.

To avoid plagiarism, you must cite a source when you quote, paraphrase, or summarize it, use charts, graphs or images from it, or include facts that you learned from a source that are not common knowledge. In-text citations should appear in the body of your assignment, and all sources used must be included in a reference list at the end of your paper. A reader should easily be able to identify all of the sources that you used in writing your assignment.

In order to avoid plagiarism, you should start your research early. Rushing makes you more likely to lose track of sources, take shortcuts, or cite improperly.

Make sure that you also take meticulous notes. Be sure to include all the required information for each source so that you don’t forget which source your notes came from.

Careful citation and referencing are the best way to avoid plagiarism.

When you’re looking at a search result, review it carefully to determine what type of resource you are using, for example a book, video, or article. There may be visual clues, such as an icon illustrating the resource type. The resource type is important because different information is required for referencing different types of resources.

If you have found an item from a database, look for a Cite button in the database. You can click this button to form a basic reference for the item, but remember that it’s your responsibility to verify that the reference format is correct according to your required citation style.

A full reference for an article includes the title, the author’s name, the name of the journal that the article was published in, the date of publication, the journal volume and issue numbers, page numbers for the article, and the DOI, if there is one. Note that the DOI, also known as the digital object identifier, is often found in the detailed record for the article but sometimes it can only be found when you click through to look at the full text of the article.

A full reference for a book includes the book’s title, the author or editor’s name, the place and date of publication, the publisher’s name, and any other information that may be required.

A full reference for a video includes the video’s title, the place and date of publication, any producer, director, or writer’s name, and any other information that may be required.

A full reference for a web resource always includes the web address or URL, the title, the date of publication or last update to the page, and the name of the author, creator, or owner. Referencing web resources can be complicated, and you may require other pieces of information. Consult a referencing guide for more examples.

Remember that there are many citation styles. Some common styles are APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian. Different fields of study have particular style preferences. If you’re asked to use APA, which is commonly used at Georgian, check out the APA Guide on the library website at It provides help with constructing in-text citations and reference pages.