Build your skills
Research is hard work! The Beryl Ivey Library offers a number of resources to help you complete your course assignments and research.
Click on the tabs above to learn about the different stages of the research cycle. We have tips and tricks that will help you succeed.
Once you have a topic for your research, essay, or project, the next step is to develop the question you are going to ask (and answer).
- If it is for an assignment, make sure you review the assignment instructions so that you know what is being asked of you. Look for key points that will help you choose an appropriate topic.
- First, you may want to brainstorm. What are the different areas of your topic? How might they connect to each other? A good way to do this is to draw a concept map (example below)
- Once you have your concept map, you can start to develop some questions. Are you interested in who? why? what? Try to choose a topic that is not too broad (to avoid having too much many resources through) or narrow (to avoid not having enough resources).
You may find that you need to do some research before you can develop your question. That’s OK! Doing some general reading on the topic will help you learn about it, and decide what you want to write about.
An Example of Concept Mapping
Perhaps you are a Foods and Nutrition student, and your broad topic is Diabetes. First, you draw your concept map.
Remember, you may need to go and do some general reading before you develop your question, particularly if you have never read about diabetes before.
Perhaps you decide you are interested in alternative medicine treatments for teenagers with Type I. Your research question might be, “How can teenagers with Type I Diabetes help to control the disease through alternative medicine?”
The next step is to find resources that will help you to answer this question.
Beryl Ivey Library has lots of resources for you to use when you are doing your research. We also have access to all that Western Libraries has to offer.
Starting your Search
If you are just getting started, check out our Research Guides. The research guides will give you specific information about helpful resources in your subject area, including potential keywords, links to useful journals, and other reference materials. Click on your subject area on the Research Guides page to get started.
You can also check out the Research Guides at Western Libraries.
Once you have some keywords, you are ready to go searching. Keywords are the terms you use in your search. You may want to search in the library catalogue for books or journals, in Summon for articles, or in one of our many databases. If you aren’t sure which database is for you, you can look at the Research Guides, or just ask us!
Some journals will use title abbreviations. To learn about interpreting or creating these, check out our Acronyms and Abbreviations page.
In search engines, Boolean Terms can help you combine your keywords, rather than just typing random words, like in Google.
If you want to make sure that a journal article has two or more things you are interested in reading about, use AND:
i.e. diabetes AND alternative medicine AND control
If you want to use synonyms in your search, you can use OR:
i.e. diabetes OR type 1 diabetes OR juvenile diabetes
More Search Tips
If you want to string together keywords and ask the search engine to search for them in a particular order, use quotation marks. This is really helpful if you are using Summon, or Google Scholar.
i.e. “type 1 diabetes”
Truncation helps you to search for different forms of a word. Put an asterisk* on the end of a root word. This will retrieve all the words that include the letters before the asterisk.
i.e. lead* will get you lead, leader, leaders, leadership, leading, etc.
Brackets tell a database to search for everything inside the brackets before moving on to the next word (just like BEDMAS in math). They are helpful to use if you have a lot of synonyms.
i.e (type 1 diabetes OR juvenile diabetes OR diabetes) AND (diet OR nutrition)
You may want to try to organize your resources as you go – we recommend using programs like Zotero or Mendeley. These free reference manager programs make managing all your information much easier.
We have a guide for Zotero. One for Mendeley is coming soon!
If you want to know more about searching, check out the Clever Researcher Blog!
Once you’ve found resources that look useful for your research, you need to evaluate them.
Once you’ve done your searching and found some resources, you need to evaluate them to see if they will be useful in your writing. You need to figure out if they are useful for your topic, trustworthy and reliable. Here are some questions to ask when you are evaluating resources:
- Look through the preface, introduction, or abstract. Does it apply to your research? If it does, read more of the resource. If it doesn’t, stop and move on to another source.
- Where or by whom was it published? Is it a scholarly journal article, from a reputable publisher, or an opinion piece? Most professors will ask for peer-reviewed sources, meaning the article or book has gone under some kind of scholarly review.
- Who is the intended audience? What is the level of information, and what assumptions is the author making about you, the reader?
- Is it comprehensive? Does it cover your topic in enough detail?
- Look at the references. Does it cite other scholarly sources? You can also use references to find more useful resources for your topic.
- Is there any bias? Is it clear that the author is writing from a particular point of view, or are they neutral?
- How accurate is the resource? Does it match the other things you have read?
- How timely is the resource? Was it written two years ago, or thirty years ago? For some topics, information becomes dated quickly (i.e. medical science), but for others, it can last (i.e. history).
- Is the author credible? What do you know about them? If it is an organization, what can you find out about it?
- Are the points or arguments in the article backed up with appropriate evidence?
We recommend taking notes when you are evaluating and going through your resources, so that you remember the important points. You can organize by subheading or “chunk”, write a working outline, or use colour coding. Also write notes, in your own words, about why your resources are helpful.
You can find more tips on writing notes on the Clever Researcher Blog.
Now that you’ve found some resources and evaluated them, it’s time to start writing.
Writing an essay or research paper can be hard work! The resources below can help you with your writing:
- Visit the Writing Centre at Brescia.
- The OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab has lots of writing resources for you to use. You can find out about subject-specific writing, writing mechanics, grammar, and more.
- Check out Western’s Writing Support Centre Online Writing Resources. They have lots of writing support handouts for you to use.
Plagiarism is something that comes up a lot at university (it’s important never to do it!) and it can be a scary word if you don’t understand it. Just what do we mean by plagiarism?
Plagiarism is using the work, words, or ideas of someone else without acknowledging them. It can be intentional, or unintentional.
This is why we talk about citing so much. When you use an idea from another source in your paper, use a quote, or reprint a picture, you need to state where you got it from.
If you use the idea of somebody else, but put it in your own words, you are paraphrasing. If you use the exact words from another source, you are quoting.
The sites below have lots of information about plagiarism, and how to avoid it. Visit them before you submit your assignment.
- Avoiding Plagiarism – OWL @ Purdue — defines plagiarism, lists examples and gives a “Safe Practices” list
- Plagiarism.org — A website dedicated to all aspects of plagiarism: definitions, FAQ, help with citing, and a plagiarism checker to use before you hand in your assignments.
When you are writing, you will need to cite your sources. Beryl Ivey Library has the citation information you need!
Citing is an important part of the research process – you need to give credit to the authors of the sources you used!
Managing Your Citations
To help you with citing, we recommend using a citation manager, such as Zotero or Mendeley.
These free reference manager programs make managing all your information much easier.
We have a help sheet available for Zotero.
There are many different citation styles at Brescia, and it is likely that your professor will tell you which one you should use for your assignment. We have made Citation Guides to all the citation styles used at Brescia.
Some journals will use title abbreviations. To learn interpreting or creating these, check out our Acronyms and Abbreviations page.
Don’t forget – if you have questions about citation, ask a library staff member – we’re here to help!