Here are some friendly tips for researching an essay on any topic, plus lots of useful links for researching an essay in a specific University College-affiliated program.
Get help with your research.
- Let us help you find better sources for your essay -- and save you time.
- Use the popular Chat service ("Ask: Chat with a librarian").
- You can also get help by email.
- For in-depth research help, you can even book a consultation (a one-on-one appointment with a librarian).
Find out more about getting help with your research (U of T Libraries)
Find out what kinds of sources your instructor expects for your assignment.
- Scholarly books?
- Scholarly journal articles? Peer-reviewed journal articles? Newspaper or magazine articles?
- Primary sources? Secondary sources?
- Websites that are relevant and authoritative?
- If in doubt, ask your professor or TA.
Try to start your research early, so you'll have time to...
- follow trails (one source you're reading might mention another key source for your topic);
- request books or articles from UTM Library, UTSC Library, or UTL at Downsview ("intercampus delivery"); or
- request books or articles from other universities, if U of T doesn't own them ("interlibrary loan / RACER").
Start your research at the U of T libraries home page.
- The U of T Libraries home page is a good place to find scholarly (and some non-scholarly) sources, both electronic and print.
- Most people can't get these for free on the web, but as a U of T student you have free access with your UTORid.
- Key search tools:
- "Catalogue search" (books, DVDs, etc.)
- "Article search"
- The "Start your search" box gives you a PREVIEW of your first few results from "Catalogue search" and "Article search."
- The "Start your search" box does NOT include Databases -- you need to search these separately.
Start with more general sources.
A general source (such as an encyclopedia) is an easier place to start than a highly specific source (such as a journal article).
- encyclopedia article to get the context?
- chapter or section in a more general book?
- book(s) on your topic?
- journal article(s) on a specific aspect of your topic?
Browse the shelves.
- After a catalogue search leads you to a few relevant books, browse the physical shelves nearby for other books on the same topic.
- You can also browse VIRTUALLY by clicking "Browse Shelf" in the library catalogue.
- Books are important sources in humanities and social sciences.
- Some books are only available in print, some only as ebooks, and some in both formats.
Find the best database(s) for your topic.
- Each field of study has a specialized database(s) -- e.g., psychology has "PsycInfo."
- Often a specialized database is the best way to find relevant articles.
- From the U of T Libraries home page, click "Databases... By subject A-Z."
- Then select your broad topic (e.g., "psychology" or "biology" or "Indigenous studies").
Let your research inform your writing.
- Professors want you to analyze and engage with your sources.
- Your viewpoint will evolve as you read, take notes, think critically and write.