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:
Selecting a good topic may not be easy. Speak with your instructor if you feel you are stuck or need additional guidance.
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.
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:
Using Boolean Operators
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:
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:
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?
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
Ron Doyle Library
443 Northern Avenue
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
(705) 759-2554 ext. 2711
To access the databases from off-campus:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or text at 705-998-5954.