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SOSC 0130

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.

Recognizing Scholarly Secondary Sources

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. 

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?

 

Recognizing Scholarly Secondary Sources in History 7:42 min.

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:

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

Finding Books & Journal Articles In LibrarySearch

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.

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Pro Tip

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

- Put important phrases inside quotation marks -- "world war"

- use an asterisk to search for all possible endings of a term
           Canad* will find Canada, Canadian, Canadians

 

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

Chicago style citation resources for MRU will help you format your footnotes and bibliography.

Student Evaluation of Library Instruction

Instructors at MRU are required to have their teaching evaluated regularly. Please complete a brief evaluation of this library session by following the link provided:

  • Select today’s class from the list on your Blue Dashboard by clicking on the Select link to the far right of the course name.
  • Complete the evaluation and submit

Blue Dashboard - access student evaluation here.

Librarian

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Alice Swabey
Contact:
Drop-in help Mondays 2-4 at the Library Service Desk. Appointments available via Google Meet or in-person. Email help is also available.
Email: aswabey@mtroyal.ca