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Research Help

Defining Your Topic

Defining a topic is often the first step in a research project. Your instructor may assign you a topic, but most often, you'll be required to select one of your own. When deciding on a topic, you'll want to keep the following in mind:

  • Keep your topic focused and clear.
  • Be sure that information is available and understandable.
  • Flexibility is key. You may have to broaden or narrow your topic to fit your assignment or the sources you find.
  • Choose a topic that interests you.
  • Be aware of overused ideas.

Selecting a good topic may not be easy. Speak with your instructor if you feel you are stuck or need additional guidance.

Developing a Search Strategy

Once you have your topic, you'll need to find keywords that you can use to describe it. This will help when you are searching for information, as different databases and authors will use different terms for the same subject. 

Try to keep track of synonyms ("sneakers" and "running shoes"), broader terms ("shoes"), and narrower terms ("Converse").  

You can also look for suggested keywords, or specific databases' subject terms.

Database Subject Terms

Subject Terms are a database's own way of categorizing subjects, regardless of the author's terms. They allow users to search a single subject term rather than needing to find all possible keywords the author could be using. Each database has it's own way of categorizing subjects. Each database keeps it's subject term list in a different location.

Searching Online

Using the main search bar on the Library's Home Page lets you search everything the library has to offer, from print resources to articles, eBooks to videos. This will be a very broad search, and will show you scholarly articles, as well as newpapers and popular media. It's a good place to start, however you'll need to be sure to evaluate resources you gather from it.

You can also search specific databases. This will give you narrower results, and will allow you to utilize the database's subject terms.

Boolean Operators for Advanced Searching

One of the most powerful capabilities of online searching is the ability to combine concepts. Boolean operators control the logical relationships among concepts and link two or more search terms to make your search more precise.

Boolean logic consists of three logical operators:

  • OR
  • AND
  • NOT

Using Boolean Operators

  • OR is used to retrieve records that show one, both or all search terms. OR will expand your search
    • HINT: OR gives you mORe!
  • AND is used to retrieve records containing all search terms. AND will reduce your search.
  • NOT is used to exclude terms from your search. 
    • Be careful using NOT, it can omit useful results.

Truncation

Truncation symbols allow you to search for suffix variations of root terms or words. Truncations symbols vary by database, so always check the help files. In our examples, we've used an asterisk as our symbol:

  • Child* will show child, children, children's
  • Nurs* will show nurse, nurses, nursing, nurse's

Wildcard Searching

Wild card symbols allow you to search for spelling variations within the same or related terms. Wildcard symbols vary by database, so always check the help files. In our examples, we've used a question mark as our symbol:

  • Wom?n will show woman and women
  • Colo?r will show color and colour

Evaluating Information

When you are searching for information, it is not enough to use the first source that you find.  Before you decide to include an article or website as a source for your paper, you must first evaluate the information to see if it is accurate, authoritative, objective, current, and relevant.

1.  Current - Can you tell when the information was written/created?  Is the information out-of-date?

2.  Relevant - Is the information useful to you?  Is the topic covered in sufficient depth?  Does the information suit your needs?

3.  Accurate - Is the information accurate and reliable?  Is there any evidence of corroboration of the content from another source?  Does the author provide references to support any statements or conclusions made in the text? 

4.  Authoritative -  Is the author identified?  If so, is this person considered to be an authority on the subject?  Is the author affiliated with a particular association or organization?  Is the publisher identified?  Is the publisher associated with promoting specific interests?

5.  Purpose - Why was the information published?  Who is the intended audience for the information?  Does the article or website provide facts or opinions?  Is the article or website providing information from multiple viewpoints or is it biased?

Writing Your Paper

Additional Help

  1. Talk to your instructor
    • Your instructor can help clarify assignments and instruction. Speak with them as soon as you need assistance.
  2. Peer Tutoring
    • Attend a tutorial session led by other students. Peer tutors will work with you to review course content and work through problems together.
    • Visit our Peer Tutoring Page for more information and the schedule
  3. Student Success Learning Modules
    • These modules are available on the College Services tab of the Student Portal.
    • Learning modules and quizzes are available to help students understand different learning styles, stress management techniques, and note taking/reading textbook strategies. If students require additional instruction or support, an appointment can be made in Student Services with a Counselor or the Student Success Advisor.
  4. The Write Place
    • Drop-in for assistance at The Write Place - a faculty-led tutorial for students wanting help with grammar, sentence structure, essays, reports, resumes, research, and documentation.

The Write Place Hours:
Tuesdays: 11:30am to 1:20pm
Wednesdays: 11:30am to 1:20pm
Thursdays: 11:30am to 1:20pm
Fridays: 10:30am to 12:20pm

Location:
E3125

  1. Informal Study Group
    • Form an informal study group within your class or program to support each other and your learning activities. 
  2. Visit your Councellor
    • Visit Student Services to make an appointment with a counsellor to discuss your academic options and success strategies. 
    • Visit our Counselling Support Page for more information.

Ron Doyle Library
Sault College
443 Northern Avenue
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
P6B 4J3
(705) 759-2554 ext. 2711
library@saultcollege.ca

Off-Campus Access

To access the databases from off-campus:

  • Select your database
  • Login using your student number
    (Username) and PIN (Password)

.

Don't know your PIN?
Check your Sault College e-mail.
PIN info is sent to you at the beginning of each semester by "SIRSI".
Still can't find it? Contact Library staff at 705-759-2554 ext. 2711,
by email to library@saultcollege.ca or text at 705-998-5954.