Conducting research for an assignment can be overwhelming. The research tips I’ve provided below might seem like a lot of extra work, but they will save you a lot of time, energy, and marks by the time your assignment is complete.
Before you start a Google search, try researching your topic using the following sources:
Start your research with an encyclopedia. It will provide you with a brief overview of your topic, and the will often have links to other sources of information.
- The Canadian Encyclopedia
- World Book Online
- Gale Virtual Reference Library (you can search several specialized encyclopedias on the topics of history, literature, and science)
This free encyclopedia is the top result in every Google search and is everyone’s first stop when researching, but it should be used with caution. Keep these three tips in mind when searching Wikipedia:
- Use Wikipedia as a source for reliable, external websites on your topic.
- Verify facts you’ve read on Wikipedia in another source.
- Never quote Wikipedia in an assignment.
If your teacher requires more in-depth information for your assignment, you will have to find articles on your topic. An article is a self-contained piece of writing published in a periodical (e.g. newspaper, magazine, academic journal). You can find articles using online databases, which are large, searchable collections of multiple periodicals.
Tip: As a CCRSB student, you have access to EBSCO and InfoTrac at school and at home (see me for username and password information for home access). Google Scholar is open to everyone, but you may not be able to get the full-text version of articles you find in that database.
Searching databases can be a bit tricky, so if you need assistance be sure to check out the help section of the database you are using or see me in the library.
Don’t forget about old-fashioned books when researching. SHS Library has a small but mighty nonfiction collection. You can search for books at SHS (and throughout the school board) using the online catalogue. If I don’t have a book here, let me know and I will try and borrow it from another school.
Tip: The catalogue will not auto-correct your spelling, so make sure everything’s spelled correctly when you search for a book.
After you’ve exhausted the library’s resources, try your hand at searching the web.
The web is a great place to find information, but remember to be critical of all the information you find online. Anyone can create or update a website, and you need a keen eye to determine what’s fact and what’s fiction. For tips on how to evaluate the content of a website, check out these links:
- Credible Sources Count! (Acadia University Library)
- The 5 Ws (and 1 H) of Cyberspace (Media Awareness Network)
Tip: when doing any web search, the first links to appear are always sponsored links, which means that companies pay the search engine to have their website appear at the top of the search results. It doesn’t necessarily mean these links are the best – just that they’re paid for.
- Copying and pasting information into your assignment without providing the source information.
- Passing off another student’s paper as your own.
- Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks.
- Not giving proper credit to the source of the information.
- Giving incorrect or made-up information about the source of a quotation.
Cutting and pasting from the internet without giving credit may not seem like a big deal, but it has serious consequences: you may fail the assignment, the class, or the year (and if you’re caught plagiarizing in university you could be expelled). For more information on plagiarism and how to avoid it, check out this helpful tutorial:
You Quote It, You Note It! (Acadia University Library)
Citation Style Guides
The best way to avoid plagiarism is to keep track of all the sources you use for your assignment and identify where you obtain each idea you use in your assignment.
When you quote or paraphrase information, you need to provide details about where you found it using the citation style indicated by your teacher. A citation style is a set of rules used to note where you found the information in your assignment. There are three main citation styles: APA, MLA, and Chicago. Different subjects use different citation styles, but they are all very similar. The only real difference is the order in which the information is presented.
For citation style guides, check out the following resource:
Purdue University Online Writing Lab (Bookmark this one! It’s a great resource for citation styles, research tips, and writing help. I used this all through university).
I won’t lie – citation styles can be complicated and tedious. To make life a little easier for yourself, use a free citation generator. There are many available online, but these are three reliable ones:
Ask Your Librarian!
If you need have any questions or need any assistance doing research or citing sources, come visit me in the library Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.