In this step you will find sources of information that support your ideas and you will start to arrange them into a rough outline of what your essay will look like.
You will need to set time aside to do research and you will need to be flexible in terms of your rough thesis. Remember it’s just a starting point and your research might lead you to another viewpoint.
What Type of Sources can I use?
There are many different forms of information that will help you support your argument. You can use a variety of sources from books and scholarly journals to government websites, statistics and personal interviews.
Remember to always follow your professor’s instructions. The assignment outline will sometimes list the type of sources and the number of sources you need. Always stick to this! If you would like to use knowledge from an elder, ask your professor or talk to RASS.
What are Scholarly Sources?
Your professor is likely to ask you to use scholarly resources for your paper. Professors prefer scholarly sources because they use agreed-upon rigorous and critical methods. Scholarly Jources are:
Written by someone with an advanced degree working at a University - usually a PhD
Example: By Dr. James Smith, PhD, Ryerson University
Published in an academic journal or by a university publisher
Published in Journal of Neurology
Contains research and citations
Works cited page at the end with a list of books and articles used throughout the paper or book.
What are Popular Sources?
Popular sources are magazines and newspapers and are very useful for current commentary on a topic or issue, but they usually do not contain in-depth research.
For certain assignments you might be asked to use primary sources. Primary sources are works created at the time of an event, or by a person who directly experienced an event.
It is the content that matters and an on-line source can still be a primary source. For example, an online copy of a newspaper from May 8, 1945, is still a primary source even though the original article was digitized.
Where should I start? Google vs. the Library Website
Google is one way to start your research, especially if you are unfamiliar with your topic. You can also find government documents and charity reports by searching Google.
But please remember you should use Ryerson Library's website.
The Library's Website (www.library.ryerson.ca)
The Library has purchased books, e-books and subscriptions to article databases on your behalf. When you search through the library’s catalogue, you get access to the books and full text Scholarly articles because you are a Ryerson Student (You’ll be asked to sign-in using your my.ryerson account). If you try to access these same sources through Google, you will be asked to pay. Never pay, just visit our website to get access to these sources.
How to put together a “Search Strategy” (Boolean Search Methods)
Learning how to search for scholarly sources is a skill you have to practice over and over before you become an expert searcher.
When searching for your sources, you’ll need to use “Keywords” and a method called "Boolean". Using this method is a quick and easy way to expand or narrow down your research when using databases and even websites like Google.
(image from: Editor Growth and Contribution Program keywords, Wikipedia)
Here's a Video from Seneca College on Keywords:
Putting it Together with Boolean Search
Use synonyms: Often there are multiple ways to express the same concept. For example these synonyms mean essentially the same thing – make sure to use them:
employment can also be:
Teenagers can be:
Use quotation marks " ":
If one of your synonyms contains more than one word (e.g., First Nations) use quotation marks (” “) around the whole phrase (e.g., “First Nations”) to ensure the words are searched for together and not separately.
Combine Keywords with AND
Teenagers AND Jobs = this finds books and articles that contain both Teenagers and Jobs
Combine Synonyms with OR and put them in Bracket ( )
(Teenagers OR Teens OR Young People) = This will find books and articles that contain either one, two or three of these words
If you keep getting the wrong result try NOT
Example: Java Script NOT Coffee
Métis NOT Inuit
Here's a Search Example Using these Tips:
"First Nation" AND (Teenagers OR Adolescents OR Youth) AND (Employment OR Work Or Jobs) AND Canada
When searching in Databases try to use the following:
Limit your search to look only for the title or author, within a certain date range, in a certain format, and more. This eliminates a lot of irrelevant results immediately. (These are found in the advanced search options in either databases and websites).
Advanced Search Options:
Everywhere you search, from the library catalogue, to article databases, to Google and Yahoo, there will be a Help page for search tips and a Advanced Search options page. Explore these pages for site-specific search tips.
How can I tell if my source is appropriate for my essay?
It is important to think critically and to analyze your source of information. Your goal here is to recognize that some sources will not work for your essay. They might fail to support tyour own argument, are politically biased or are too old.
Here’s a helpful PDF from York University on the “PARCA” test. The PARCA test is a method to evaluate sources by determining its Purpose, Authority, Relevance, Currency, and Accuracy.
How many resources should I find?
Don't overwhelm yourself with research at the beginning. By starting off with the minimum required amount of sources you will reduce the amount of stress that you put on yourself and it will help narrow down the scope of your essay. It will also help you determine whether or not you should alter your thesis.
Reading your Sources:
Be sure to read every source carefully and critically. You can read once to get the gist of the argument, and the second time to read critically to see if the argument is well supported. Finally, note how this source will help enhance your main point/thesis.
It is absolutely essential that you take notes as you are compiling your research, and even more crucial when you decide which arguments you believe will be the best for your work. Taking notes does not mean copying down word for word, but in essence a summary of the work, or an idea that resonates with you.
Academic Integrity is about being truthful and honest in your academic work. This means taking responsibility to ensure that the works you use are properly cited, and that credit is given to the original author. Your paper should be a balance of citations from the experts and your own voice.
Proper note-taking will help you ensure you give proper credit where credit is due.