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Four Directions Writing Guide

Step 2 - Summer

Summer - Researching your Topic

Red = Summer

  • knowledge sockeye red salmon swimming

  • physical

  • understanding

  • flexibility

  • preparation

  • process

  • collaborate

  • give energy


Now is the time for in-depth researching!

In this step you will find sources of information that support your ideas and you will start to arrange them into a rough outline of what your essay will look like.

You will need to set time aside to do research and you will need to be flexible in terms of your rough thesis. Remember it’s just a starting point and your research might lead you to another viewpoint.  



Types of Sources and Timeline of Information Production

Infographic of types of sources (explained in a word document below)

There are different sources you can use for your assignments. It is up to you as the researcher to evaluate your sources to determine their accuracy and credibility.

When choosing sources, we look at the authority of the authors:

  • Is this their subject expertise?

  • Do they hold an official title or professional designation? (e.g. professor, reporter, community elder, etc.)

  • Do they have special experience with this topic? (e.g. eye witness, first hand historical participant, etc.)


Above all, as a researcher, you have to evaluate each source you find for its credibility, trustworthiness and qualifications.

You can use the CRAAP test to help you evaluate your sources and distinguish between authoritative and popular sources.

Tip: Find a source that disagrees with your argument. Incorporating “dissenting” sources into your paper and debating their merit with your other supporting sources is exactly what scholarship is about. Scholarly writing is a conversation and a debate between your ideas and your sources.


Another thing to keep in mind is the timeline of how information is produced after an event. 

Infographic of how information is produced (explained in a word document below)



Scholarly and Popular Sources

Scholarly Sources

In university, one of the authoritative sources you are asked to use is scholarly journal articles. You will also hear the term “peer reviewed” articles.


Here are some definitions:

Scholarly Journal Articles:  

  • written by experts (majority have advanced degrees)

  • contain original research

  • cite other sources extensively throughout their work and contain works cited section

  • use academic or complex language, and may include disciplinary or theoretical lingo

  • published by a scholarly press that practices editorial review to ensure that content and context adhere to the expected research parameters

  • intended for an audience composed of researchers, scholars, academics, and other informed or specialized readership

Peer Reviewed

Peer reviewed articles are scholarly articles that have undergone a review process by other experts in the field before being published (hence - reviewed by their peers).

Peer Reviewed Explained in 3 Minutes:

From North Carolina State University Library (Closed Captioned)



Popular Sources:

Non-scholarly sources can contain a wealth of well-researched information for your topic, but their intended audience and their review process is different than scholarly sources.

MacLeans Magazine cover with Rob Ford - a popular source


Here are some definitions:

Popular Sources:

  • include magazines, trade journals, newspapers, books, websites, Youtube etc.,.

  • written or produced for a general audience and are informal in tone and scope

  • rarely cite other sources

  • Magazines, newspapers and books have an editor review the work but are not peer reviewed

  • tend to be short (200-500 words)



Can I use non-scholarly sources?

Yes, but make sure you follow your assignment guidelines. Some assignments will ask you to use a specific number of peer reviewed articles plus sources of your own choice. Just remember to evaluate your sources to ensure they are appropriate.

Evaluate your Sources with the CRAAP Test

For your assignments, you should consult and cite a mix of sources such as books and journal articles. You can start by looking at the requirements of the assignment to see if you need a certain number sources or a specific type of source.


Choosing appropriate sources is important. You will have to critically evaluate all your sources. One way to evaluate sources is through the CRAAP test.

Evaluating your Sources

From the University of Western Ontario Libraries (Closed Captioned)

The CRAAP Test Poo Emoji



  • How current is the resource?
  • When was the resource published or posted?
  • Is this the most current version of this information available?
  • Has the information been revised / updated? Is there proof of last update, publication date?
  • Is currency of information a concern for your topic?


  • Does the resource meet your needs?
  • Is the information related to your topic?
  • Does it support your viewpoint or provide an alternate one?
  • Is the information and discussion at an appropriate level? Who is the intended audience (general population, scholars, practitioners etc.)?


  • Is the information in the resource reliable?
  • Are the author’s claims supported by evidence?
  • Has the content been reviewed by other experts? Is it a peer-reviewed resource?
  • Are the language and tone biased?
  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors?


  • Who wrote/produced/published the resource?
  • Is the source published by an academic publisher or a reputable organization?
  • Is an author clearly identified? What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic? Degrees, professional designations, professional accomplishments and experience are indicators of qualifications.
  • If it is a website, does the url reveal anything about the source (.com, .gov, .edu, .org)


  • Why does this resource exist?
  • What is the purpose? Is it to teach, sell, promote, entertain?
  • Do the author(s) make their intentions clear? Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, or personal biases?
  • Is the information provided by the resource fact, opinion?
  • Does it have a variety of viewpoints and arguments? Do your sources reflect different genders, ages, ethnic groups, languages, nationalities, disciplines, etc

Searching with Keywords

Keywords & Synonyms

1. Keywords are the most important words in your topic

  • Is the petroleum industry contributing to climate change in Canada?

= Petroleum industry 

= Climate change 

= Canada


2. Also think of other words or phrases related to your topic (Synonyms).

  • Climate change = global warming

  • Petroleum = oil

*A concept map can help you come up with related terms to your topic


3. Search again and again using different keywords! 


4. Use the limiters available like “Peer Reviewed” or “Date Range”


Keyword Search Example: 

Omni search for Climate change "oil production" Canada



Keyword Searching From Seneca Libraries (Open Captions)




Research Question: What are the effects of rising oil prices on the economy of Canada


Keyword 1: Oil prices Synonyms: Gas, gasoline, petroleum, fossil fuels, cost, expenses
Keyword 2: Economy Synonyms: Economic impact, financial impact
Keyword 3: Canada

Synonyms: There is no synonym for Canada, but you could

narrow your topic to a province like Alberta



Try It:

Research Question: "What motivates University students to complete online coursework?"


Keyword 1 Synonyms 
Keyword 2 Synonyms
Keyword 3 Synonyms


Advanced Search Techniques


Two word term or phrase searching "..."

When you have a two word keyword (like First Nations or Social Media) use quotation marks around the two words - "Social Media". This keeps the two words together in your search results. Otherwise you might get results that look for the two words separately and not sequentially. 


Limiters are your friend! 

Search Engines like the Library's Search Everything and our various subject databases have limiters on the search page and the results page. Limiters will allow you to limit your results to the type of resources (books, peer reviewed, newspapers etc), the publication date range, the subject area and the language of the resource, just to name a few. Always check out the limiters when searching. 

Let's try some searches 

Let's say you have a research essay on the benefits of exercise for older adults. 

Type the following keywords into the Search Everything Box below: 

  • "Older adults" exercise benefits 


Next try the same search using synonyms for the keywords:

  • "Elderly adults" "physical fitness" outcome



1. Was there a difference in titles ?

2. Were they still on the same topic? The benefits of exercise for older adults?  

What are Articles and Databases?

What are “articles”?


Articles appear in magazines, newspapers, and journals. Scholarly articles appear in journals and they are written by researchers, professors and other experts.


Scholarly articles:

  • Contain expert knowledge

  • Are double checked for accuracy

  • Have good research methods

  • Focus on a specific topic/issue

We recommend using scholarly articles when researching because they represent the type of research and writing you should be aiming for in your own assignments.

You might also find an article that disagrees with your argument. Incorporating “dissenting” sources into your paper and debating their merit with your other supporting sources is exactly what scholarship is about. Scholarly writing is a conversation and a debate between your ideas and your sources.


 Remember that accuracy and quality of information matters


Example of an Article

example of first page of article


What are "databases"?

A database is an organized collection of information. Computer databases with web interfaces allow users to easily find the content that they are looking for. Netflix is a database of streaming video; Amazon is a database of consumer goods; subject specific library databases are collections of scholarly articles, ebooks, and more.


Database Hierarchy is similar to Netflix hierarchy - explanation below in a word document

Why are databases awesome?

Library databases allow you to search through millions of scholarly and popular articles, making your life easier. They let you:

  • Read full text of articles in PDF or HTML (just look for the “Full Text Link” or the “GET IT” link)

  • Narrow your results to only “peer reviewed”

  • Email the article to yourself

  • Show you how to cite your article in APA (or another citation style you need)

Here’s an example from our ProQuest Database:

 Proquest search

How to Find Articles with Search Everything

Search Everything:

  • Located on the Library's homepage

  • Discovery search box (like Google for Libraries). Searches across our collections of article databases, books, and ebooks etc.,  

  • Use it to find:  books, ebooks, scholarly articles, newspaper, magazines.


Using Search Everything (Video)



1. Search using keywords (or the title/author if you know it)

Search everything search box


2. Refine using filters on the left of the result page.

  1. Content type (book, journal article, newspaper etc.,)  

  2. Scholarly & peer reviewed, publication date, discipline etc.,​​


3. Get your sources.

  1. Online Items Only link is for articles and ebooks

    1. Link will bring you to another page with the full text of the article or ebook.

  2. Save or Cite your results using the icons on the right side of your source.  


Aspects of the result page - limit on the left and click on Full Text online to read your articles


Try It: 

1. Go to the Library Home Page.

2. Search using the keywords: "Student Motivation" AND "Online Learning"

3. Limit your results to peer reviewed 

4. Pick one of your results and click on "Full Text Online" and locate the PDF of the article, 

5. Go back to your results page and click the email icon to email the article to yourself. 

How to Find Books

You can search for books using Search Everything or the "Books" tab on the Library's home page.


Using Search Everything:

1. Search using keywords  (or the title if you know it)

Search Everything search box

2. Next refine using filters on the left of the result page.

  1. Content type (Book/eBook)

use the left-side menu to limit by book


Using the Book Tab:

  • This tab searches our book and ebook collection       


  1. Locate the book tab on the Library’s homepage

  2. Enter your keywords (or author/title if you know it)

  3. Choose from a list of results


Getting your Books:

  • eBooks will have a link called Full Text Online 
  • The link will bring you to another page with the full text of the ebook.
  • For physical books - look for the status and location (call number)
  • Status will be either Available or Due (plus the date it is due back)

Example of eBook and physical books:example of record for both ebook and physical book






Next Steps

different types of books and articlesNext Steps: 



How many resources should I find?

Don't overwhelm yourself with research at the beginning. By starting off with the minimum required amount of sources you will reduce the amount of stress that you put on yourself and it will help narrow down the scope of your essay. It will also help you determine whether or not you should alter your thesis.

Reading your Sources:

Be sure to read every source carefully and critically. You can read once to get the gist of the argument, and the second time to read critically to see if the argument is well supported. Finally, note how this source will help enhance your main point/thesis.

Here is a helpful hint from Guide entitled “How to Read Critically”


pen and paper

Note on Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity is about being truthful and honest in your academic work. This means taking responsibility to ensure that the works you use are properly cited, and that credit is given to the original author. Your paper should be a balance of citations from the experts and your own voice.

Proper note-taking will help you ensure you give proper credit where credit is due. 

For more information on academic integrity, please visit the Academic Integrity Website.



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