Are you trying to get started on your assignment? Follow the steps below. If you need more help than provided here, Ask us.
Step 1. Understand your assignment
First, you need to figure out what is expected of you. To learn more, read Understanding Assignments. Talk to your instructor if you have any questions about the format, tasks, style or technical details.
Step 2. Choose your research topic
If a topic was not assigned, think of one that interests you and is a good fit for your assignment. Discuss your ideas with your instructor.
- All topics: search blogs such as NYPL Posts by subject or view blog posts by category in Science Borealis
- Current events and politics: search in Twitter
- you may target hashtags by theme, for example #canpoli
- Arts and culture, education, immigration, etc.: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's Research Stories
- Oil sands, environment, natural resources, technologies, etc.: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Tip: Note keywords or concepts of interest that may be helpful for Step 3.
Step 3. Create effective searches
Start by listing keywords that best describe your topic. These may be single terms (example: media) or phrases (example: “social media”).
- Enclose phrases in quotation marks
- Connect multiple keywords with AND, OR, NOT (Boolean operators). To better understand the importance of Boolean operators, check the Boolean Machine
- Use truncation symbols, the most common is *(asterisk), to retrieve all variations of a search term (example: statistic* - search will retrieve statistics and statistical)
To learn how to choose effective keywords to ensure good search results, view our online learning resources: Brainstorming your research topic.
Step 4. Use the right sources
The type of information sources you use depends on your assignment. If you are not sure, ask your instructor for help.
- Get a quick overview of your topic (concepts, key people, related vocabulary, bibliography, and more) in encyclopedias. Search in Oxford Reference Online, or find more encyclopedias in Research guides and dictionaries, encyclopedias and more
- Get a more in-depth coverage of your topic in books. Search in the library catalogue. For help with book searching, check Find books
- Get a current information on your topic in journal articles. Search in the library catalogue, or in databases. Also find appropriate databases in Research guides. For help with article searching, check Find journal articles
Note: Some instructors ask that you use scholarly, or peer-reviewed, articles. To learn about peer-reviewed articles, check the video Peer Review in Three Minutes. To learn how to identify peer-reviewed journals, go to the Peer-reviewed-journals page.
Step 5. Evaluate your sources
Scholarly books and journals are checked and edited for accuracy and reliability before they are published. University libraries collect scholarly publications relevant to the teaching and research needs, so using library materials is reasonably safe.
On the Internet, no quality checks are required. It is important not to trust everything you read there and to be careful about which information you use. See How to evaluate websites.
To learn how to evaluate all information sources and determine which ones are reliable and appropriate for your assignment, check the Evaluating Information Sources research guide.
Step 6. Cite your sources
All sources, whether they are direct quotes, paraphrased text or general ideas, images, tables, charts, etc., must be acknowledged and correctly cited.
For detailed information, check Citing sources.
Plagiarism: Any assignment you submit must be your own work. Representing someone else's work as your own is plagiarism.
- To learn how to avoid plagiarism, check Avoid Plagiarism, or How to Successfully use the Works of Others research guide
- To understand the consequences of academic misconduct and the basic values of academic integrity, check Academic integrity tutorial
Step 7: Write your assignment
Looking to develop your writing skills? Talk with a Writing and Communication Centre instructor during the library drop-ins, or book an appointment through the Writing Centre's online scheduling system, WCOnline. To improve your writing "en français", visit Centre d'Aide à la Rédaction | French Writing Centre.