Help with Library Research

Getting started

  • It is a good idea to review assignment guidelines early in the semester to ensure you are clear about the requirements. Make sure that you know what assignments require you to do research in the library and what type of resources your professor or instructor wants you to use.
  • Not all library resources will be available immediately. You may wish to use a book that is currently checked out, or order in a book or article from another institution. Starting research early will give you enough time to receive the most relevant resources for your assignment.


Choosing a topic

There are many tools you can use when trying to choose a topic for a research paper. Selecting a topic that interests you will help you to focus and will also make the research paper process more enjoyable.

Topic selection:

  • Look at your course readings. Is there an article or chapter that you had more questions about?
  • Review the table of contents in your class textbook to see topics related to the course.
  • Think about class lectures and discussions. Was there anything that you were really interested in?
  • If you are still stuck, consult your professor or talk to a librarian.

Understanding your topic

Once you have selected a topic it is a good idea to make sure you understand it fully before developing an argument and beginning research.


  • Review any course readings relating to the topic.
  • Consult reference materials such as encyclopedias and dictionaries.
  • Consider doing a basic search on an internet search engine to see what information is out there -- keep in mind that in most cases, you will not want to use this information when writing your paper.

You may also want to develop some search terms and start thinking about sub-topics. One way to do this is by mapping out your ideas about the topic on a piece of paper, using lines to connect different facets. You can brainstorm synonyms for different terms and related topics you may also want to search for information about. This will also help you to decide if your topic is too broad or too narrow.

[graphic for mapping ideas]

Refining your topic:

  • If your topic is too broad, you may notice that you have a large number or search terms and sub-topics. This may become overwhelming, so consider narrowing your topic to focus on a specific aspect.
  • If your topic is too narrow you may have trouble finding alternate search terms and sub-topics. If this is the case, it might be a good idea to consult your preliminary research and choose a related topic with a wider focus.

Creating an argument

A thesis statement is important because it acts as a guide for structuring the arguments in your paper. Any paper should have the goal of proving the point laid out in your thesis statement is correct. All of the sections of your paper will then relate back to this.


  • A thesis statement should be the most concise declaration of what you are trying to prove.
  • Think of a thesis statement as an argument: you are trying to explain a particular facet of your topic.
  • Show how relevant your thesis statement is to the topic.
  • Keep your topic precise. Let the reader know what you will explore and what are the limits that you will not explore during the course of your essay.
  • Your thesis statement should guide the outline of your essay.

Finding materials

  • The Novanet catalogue will help you to find a wide range of resources for many different disciplines. This is a great place to start searching to find books, eBooks, and some journal articles about your topic.
  • Using the subject guides will help you to find subject-specific databases and other resources that are relevant to your discipline. Using a database will allow you to use powerful advanced searching tools to review a specific set of journals and articles related to your discipline.
  • Finding subject headings that are relevant to your topic will help you to find the most applicable set or resources for your topic.
  • Books tend to contain a more general overview of the topic. Even if the entire book is not useful, certain chapters may prove to be very helpful. Books are located by using the Novanet catalogue.
  • Journal articles tend to provide more recent information on a narrower range of the topic. Use indexes and databases to locate journal articles on your topic.
  • Remember to have synonyms for your search terms. Books and journal articles have bibliographies that list other possible leads for pertinent articles.
  • If you identify a useful source in a bibliography, check Novanet to see if our system carries the journal or book title.
  • The Internet is another useful source, that should be used with caution. It is important that you evaluate the information carefully.


Using resources

Preparing to write

Tips for getting your writing process going.

Writing tips

The Writing Centre has many useful PDFs that provide helpful information when dealing with common writing problems. They split these writing problems into three sections: the writing process, grammar, and punctuation.

The Writing Centre has links to helpful academic writing resources that range in topic from preparing a literature review to creating structure, and more!

Citing your sources

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