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Library Research: Get Started

Research assignment? Where do you start? Online? Books? Articles?

Getting started on your research assignment can feel overwhelming.

Think of your research assignment as a recipe that gives you the directions and ingredients you will need to write your paper.

Read your assignment instructions carefully – more than once! Highlight: 

  • topic guidelines and restrictions on format: essay, report or presentation? 
  • required length and style? Persuasive, expository or argumentative?
  • the types of information sources allowed? 

Click through the example below

Sample Assignment

The clues for what your instructor expects are in the assignment requirements so lets take a closer look to find the directions in this sample assignment:

“In this paper, you will research, analyze and discuss a Canadian environmental issue in relation to  either a medical concern or a social problem. Your paper must be 1500  - 1750 words long and written in APA Format.Select 5 sources:  1 book or e-book,  1 podcast or video, and 3 scholarly peer-reviewed articles  available from Camosun Library Databases = no off campus sources or Inter-library loans.

The verbs in the assignment description tell you what style of writing your instructor wants: 

“In this paper, you will researchanalyze and discuss a Canadian environmental issue in relation to  either a medical concern or a social problem. Your paper must be 1500  - 1750 words long and written in APA Format.Select 5 sources:  1 book or e-book,  1 podcast or video, and 3 scholarly peer-reviewed articles  available from Camosun Library Databases = no off campus sources or Inter-library loans.

research: you will have to find credible sources to support your ideas

analyze: to examine carefully and in detail

discuss: how do the two proposals compare? How are they the same or different? Which is best? What do recognized experts think of the proposals?

Limiting words help you understand the scope of the assignment.

“In this paper, you will research, analyze and discuss a Canadian environmental issue in relation to either a medical concern or a social problem. Your paper must be 1500  - 1750 words long and written in APA Format. Select 5 sources: 1 book or e-book, 1 podcast or video, and 3 scholarly peer-reviewed articles  available from Camosun Library Databases = no off campus sources or Inter-library loans.

Canadian environmental: talk about Canada only! 

either: choose to research a medical concern or a social problem, not both and don’t compare these two 

relation: show and prove a connection between the environmental issue and either the medical concern or the social problem that you choose to focus on

Make sure you find enough sources and write the number of pages asked for.

“In this paper, you will research, analyze and discuss a Canadian environmental issue in relation to either a medical concern or a social problem. Your paper must be 1500  - 1750 words long and written in APA Format. Select 5 sources: 1 book or e-book, 1 podcast or video, and 3 scholarly peer-reviewed articles available from Camosun Library Databases = no off campus sources or Inter-library loans.

Words: No less than 1500 words and not more than 1750 words…

1500 is about 3.5 to 4 pages, double spaced, 12 point font.

APA Format: this has specific requirements for how your paper or report is organized and how to format your pages and cite your sources

5 sources with specific format restrictions! This instructor has very clear source requirements!

Turn general topics into a research question: 

First: Think about these components of your research question. 

Who? Who is the specific person/group to which you would like to limit your research?

What? What specific aspect of the broad topic idea is interesting to you?

Where? To which specific geographic area or region would you like to limit your research?

When? On what time period would you like your research focused?

Why? Why do you think this is an important/interesting topic?

Next: Brainstorm and write down whatever questions come into your head. 

Refine your potential ideas

Start narrowing your ideas by being more specific with which words you are using.

General Topics: Health Concern, Lung Problems, Smog, British Columbia ...

Make the words more specific and narrow the geographical area:

Refined Topics: Health Medical Concern, Lung Respiratory problems, 

Use the promising phrases from your brainstorm questions.

  • respiratory disease
  • industrial air pollution
  • living close to a refinery

Good: "Can the industrial pollution people living close to a refinery breathe cause respiratory disease?"

Better: "Do people who live close to a refinery get more respiratory diseases?"

Best: "Do people who are exposed to air pollution from the Burnaby refinery suffer from more respiratory diseases than average?" 

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