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English Language Learners - Resources: Research

The Research Process

Research involves a multi-step process which starts with a research topic. Research is also iterative. This means that you may need to repeat certain steps in the research process depending on the topic you have chosen, or the amount and types of sources available on your topic. For example, you may decide to revise your research topic if you discover that there are no relevant sources available after doing some background research.

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Using Library Search

As a Seneca student, you can access library resources for free using your Seneca login. The main search box on the library website, or Library Search , is a great starting place to find sources on your topic. Library Search allows you to search for relevant online sources on your topic, such as articles, eBooks, and videos.

Watch a short clip on how to search for sources using Library Search (0:33 to 2:06):

Why is background research important?

Conducting background research is an important step in the earlier stages of your research. Background research allows you to:

Gain a better understanding of the topic. Sometimes you may not be very familiar with the topic you've been assigned or have selected. Background research can help you learn about different areas, perspectives, and issues of the topic.

Narrow down your topic. Getting a better understanding of different issues and perspectives of your draft topic will help in developing the final research topic or question you will use in your assignment.

Determine the amount and types of information on the topic. You may have an assignment which has source requirements (e.g., find journal articles published in the past five years). By doing some background searching, you can determine if there are enough resources on your topic that match the assignment requirements. If you find that there are not enough sources, you could modify your topic early on in the research process.

Identify search words / keywords. As you browse through the sources from your background research, you'll learn some terms and words authors use to describe your topic. Make a list of these words since you can use them when searching for sources.

Tools for conducting background research 

  • Library Search: Search your topics on the library website to explore the types of resources available on your topic.
  • Library Databases: The library has databases which provide overviews on different topics such as:
  • Google : Try searching your topic on Google to see the types of information available. In addition to background information, you may also discover who are the relevant individual/group experts for the subject area.

In addition to searching the library website, you can also search these library databases to find articles from magazines and newspapers.

In addition to searching the library website, you can also search these library databases to find videos on your topic.

Why do you need to evaluate sources?

It's fairly safe to trust information you find through the library. The types of resources found through Seneca Libraries have been reviewed several times for quality and accuracy of information. However, you may still need to evaluate the library resource to make sure that it's relevant to your topic and matches the assignment requirements.

If you're using websites and other Internet sources in your assignment, it's important to evaluate these online sources for quality and credibility. How do you know what is trustworthy? One way to check for accuracy and reliability of information is to apply the CRAAP test.

Evaluating Sources Using the CRAAP Test

More criteria for evaluating websites
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