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Assignment Planning

What are you looking for?

When you're just beginning to research a topic, you won't have all the necessary information to really get into it. You have to get a sense of the topic before you can decide what angle you'd like to take, what argument you'd like to make and where to get more, deeper, information.

Here's what to look for in your first round(s) of research:


What words are used to talk about the topic, its aspects and subtopics? Are any names of people, places or organizations mentioned? Add these terms to your search strategy.


Try to find some general background information about your topic from reference books (encyclopedias, Wikipedia, dictionaries, etc.). Once you understand the background, you can narrow in on one aspect of the topic that interests you. Make sure claims made in the information you find are properly cited or are verified by authoritative sources.


Good overview articles outline the sides of a dispute or describe the various, potentially conflicting beliefs those involved in the topic may hold. Use these controversies as a basis for reflecting on other sources you find. Consider the arguments, find other resources which weigh in, and then form your own opinion. Area of caution: if you think that an article about a controversial topic is not giving voice to both sides, it may represent bias. Opinions can be woven into the fabric of seemingly "factual" material - with any source, it is important to read with a skeptical eye and look for other resources from authorities you trust to back up what you find.

Citations & References

Good articles will have lots of citations to back up their claims. Use these citations to go deeper - find the articles/book and read them! The same goes for a list of references.

Where can you find it?

Here's some advice on the best place to look, by resource type:

Anything - I'm just getting started

Discovery Search


1st > Discovery Search 

  • Hint: click the box next to Books & Media under Limit your results. 

2nd > Other Libraries


(peer-reviewed, academic, newspaper, magazine, trade publication)
1st> Discovery search 

  • Hint: click the box next to Peer Reviewed (Scholarly) Articles under Limit your results

2nd> Find Articles page of the Research Guide for your subject/topic
3rd> List of Subscription Databases
  Choose your subject, click ALL to see all our databases, or search by database name.
4th> Google Scholar

Reports & Statistics

1st> Find the Reports/Statistics page of the Research Guide for your subject/topic
2nd> Subscription Databases
Company Information
Government Documents
3rd> Open Web


1st > Library catalogue
Use Format settings to narrow to specific types of materials. The catalogue has streaming video as well as DVD, CD and more.
1st> Naxos Music
Streaming music collection with thousands of titles in classical and jazz.
2nd > Open Web


1st > Image Research Guide
2nd > Open Web: try Google Images, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons. Visit the Image Research Guide for more information.
3rd > Library Catalogue (WORD search: [subject] and "Illus")


1st > Word of mouth (ask people in the field)
2nd > Your instructor


(publication titles with links to periodical, not individual articles)
1st > Capilano U Journals, Magazines and Newspapers

Cite It!

Remember - even early in your research you MUST take good notes about what you read and where you read it.

  • Review the requirements for the citation style you have been assigned so you're getting ALL the information you need as you use the sources.
  • Consider using a citation manager like Zotero or the Reference Manager in Word.
  • Consider using MS OneNote for screenclippings and making notes - it has some great organizational features that can keep your project on track.