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SOSC 0130

What novel have you chosen to write about?
Generals Die in Bed: 3 votes (37.5%)
The Birth House: 1 votes (12.5%)
Obasan: 1 votes (12.5%)
Indian Horse: 3 votes (37.5%)
Total Votes: 8



Brainstorming for Search Terms

Before you can begin looking for sources for your essay, you need to have a list of search terms that describe the topic and what you need to learn about it.

You can do this by brainstorming what you already know about the book, by reading some simple background sources about it, and also by collecting new search terms as you browse through possible secondary sources in the Library search tools

Your list of possible search terms could include:

  • Time period in which the book is set

  • Geographical setting for the book 

  • Major themes or issues discussed in the book 

  • Major historical events that occurred in the book

When it is time to search for sources, you can combine these terms in different ways to find relevant sources.

Finding Background Information on Your Topic

To get a basic understanding of events or issues related to your topic, and to build your search vocabulary, it can help to consult specialized academic encyclopedias. You will find them on the Background Sources tab of this research guide. 

Recommended tools for this course include:

  • Canadian Encyclopedia - Includes information related to each of the novels - including internment of Japanese Canadians, residential schools, childbirth in Canada, and World War I. 
  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography - Useful for learning about historical figures from the past.
  • Oxford Reference - Includes a very broad range of topics related to the novels, similar to the Canadian Encyclopedia but more broad.

Tip: Within an encyclopedia, use one or two very simple search terms e.g., japanese internment, residential schools, midwifery, World War I etc. 

Recognizing Scholarly Secondary Sources

Compare the following articles - one scholarly, one non-scholarly. How are they different? What indicators can you identify that help you recognize the scholarly source? SKIM EACH SOURCE, AND MAKE SURE YOU SCROLL TO THE END OF EACH. 

Hands on: Please list some of the differences you observe between the scholarly sources vs. the non-scholarly/popular source in this Jamboard.


Things to consider:
Most academic assignments will call on you to find and read scholarly sources; being able to recognize these types of sources is an important academic skill that you will apply throughout your academic life. When evaluating sources. some things to consider include:

  • AUTHOR: Who wrote or created the source? Is she/he an expert? What qualifications does she have to write on the topic? Note that scholarly sources are written by academics, usually with a PhD.
  • PURPOSE: What is the intended purpose of the information? To educate? Entertain? Persuade? Sell you something? Who is the intended audience - experts or amateurs? Scholarly sources are intended to share academic research and inform the academic community. 
  • PROCESS: What generated the information? Opinion? Research? How can you tell? Note that sources based on original research will list their references. What steps has the information gone through (Spell check? Editors? Peer review?)? Scholarly sources are always based on research, and will cite their sources. 

Recognizing Scholarly Secondary Sources in History 7:42 min.


Finding Books & Journal Articles In LibrarySearch

Scholarly books are often the best starting point for studying a historical topic that is new to you.

They will address multiple aspects of a large topic, for example, discussing the broader historical context of an issue or event in one chapter, with chapters on specific aspects of the issue, or a chapter on key historical figures in another chapter.

LibrarySearch - the search box on the MRU library homepage - is the best way to find print and electronic books.



Pro Tips

- Although scholarly books are peer reviewed, all books are removed from search results when you check the peer reviewed box, so it is helpful to do some searches leaving that box unchecked. 

- For some topics, it can be difficult to find books about the Canadian historical context. If adding the search term Canada to your search words doesn't seem to narrow things down, limit your search by selecting Subject from the options on the right side, then choose Canada (or another relevant subject tag) from the list of options.

Subject limiters Canadian History, Canada


More Search Tips

- when searching for your sources, use search terms you imagine an expert would use, take notes as you come upon new terms. Brainstorm for related terms.

- Avoid long strings of words and sentence fragments when you search:

Good search:  japanese internment Canada
Poor search: internment of japanese people in Canada 

- To retrieve fewer, more relevant search results, add a term to your query 
       Japanese internment Canada property

- To retrieve MORE and broader results, remove a word from your search
       Japanese internment


How-To Video: Finding and Accessing Books & Articles in MRU's LibrarySearch 5:32 minutes

Finding Articles in a History-Specific Database

If you still can't find a good source, or are overwhelmed with the results in LibrarySearch, try searching in a history specific journal article database
America History and Life: Includes articles on the history and culture of the United States and Canada, and will cover some historical aspects of each of the novels studied in this course.

How-to Video: Using America History & Life, from the University of Guelph 2:00 min.

Chicago Citation Resources

MRU Guide to Chicago Style for Referencing - Templates and examples for formatting footnotes and bibliography entries begin on page 6.

Chicago style citation resources for MRU - Including how to insert a footnote and how to format other parts of an essay.

Introduction to Chicago Style - Slideshow

Finding Books on the Shelf

Call number: The address for a physical library item, so you can find it on the shelf. In MRU's LibrarySearch, it is displayed below the title of the book. You can follow the locate icon for a map to the book on its shelf.


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Alice Swabey
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