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A step-by-step guide to doing research at CMTN.

Step-By-Step Research Plan

Step 1 - Select a topic 

  • Searching the internet for interesting topics 
  • Consulting reference materials for background and keywords 
  • Finding the right sized topic 

Step 2 - Find sources and research tools 

  • Onesearch 
  • Libguides 
  • a-z journal databases 

Step 3 - Search for articles and books

  • Research strategy 
  • Advanced searching 
  • Requesting books and other ILL resources 

Step 4 - Evaluate your sources

  •  Evaluate with the CRAAP method

Step 5 - Write and cite

  • Citation guides 
  • Writing guides
  • Plagiarism checklist 
  • Additional sources on academic honesty

Step 1 - Select a topic

If you haven’t yet decided what topic you want to research and write about, start with a simple topic search on the internet. 

Once you decide on a topic, express your topic or research question in a sentence.  This will help you narrow down some key words for your search strategy. 

  • For example: 

    • I want information on the political significance of the Franco-Prussian War. 

    • I need to know about the market for hockey sticks in Canada. 

    • I want to compare communism with democracy. 


Figuring out the right size of topic can be a challenge – you don’t want it so big that you’ll need to write a book to cover it, and you don’t want it so focused that no information is available.  A quick look at a reference source like an encyclopedia (Wikipedia is ok!) can help you get an idea of how big a topic is.  EBSCO’s Research Starters which can be found using OneSearch are also a great resource for this. 

*** Remember that your instructor is your best resource for checking that your topic is appropriate! ***

Step 2 - Find sources and research tools

Once you have your topic narrowed down its time to find some sources and research tools to search for information. 

  • OneSearch on CMTN library’s front page is your best option for searching many sources from many disciplines.   If you are searching from home you'll have to log in first. [Click here for login help]

  • The library curates research guides on many topics and specific courses.    Check to see if your course has a research guide!

  • You can also try browsing through all the different databases the library subscribes to.  

Step 3 - Search for articles and books

Create a research strategy 

Having a research strategy can help you approach your research in an organized way.  In step 1 you wrote out your research question.  Identify keywords from your research question: 

Example: “I want information on the political significance of the Franco-Prussian War.” 

Keywords: “Franco-Prussian War”, “political significance”, "politics" 

Find more keywords using reference sources:  

  • The research starter on the Franco-Prussian War mentions that this war contributed to the political unification of Germany.  “German unification” and “Germany unification” are keywords we can try. 

  • The Wikipedia page for Franco-Prussian War lists Otto Von Bismarck as a major political figure involved in the conflict, so we can try adding “Otto Von Bismarck” as a keyword. 

Armed with our list of keywords we can now do some searching using the resources identified in Step 2. 

Some of the phrases I’d search for this research question are: 

“Franco-Prussian War” <- start very broad and if there are lots of results start narrowing your search with additional keywords. 

“Franco-Prussian War” AND “political significance” 

“Franco-Prussian War” AND “politics” 

“Franco-Prussian War” AND “German unification” 

“Franco-Prussian War” AND “Germany” 

“Franco-Prussian War” AND “Otto Von Bismarck” 

Search Tip:  enclosing multiple words in quotation marks “” will search for the phrase inside the quotation marks instead of searching each word individually. 



  • Using the keywords “Franco-Prussian War” will only search for documents that have these keywords in exact order.
  • Using the keywords Franco-Prussian War will search for documents that have these keywords but not necessarily in order - so the word "Franco-Prussian" may appear at the start of the document and the word "War" may appear elsewhere.  The search results will also include documents that only have the keyword Franco-Prussian and documents that only have the keyword War.  

Both methods can retrieve good results, but if you are looking for keywords in a specific order using "" will return better results.

Requesting books and other ILL resources 

If you find resources that are not available in full-text through CMTN you can make an interlibrary loan request and our librarians will borrow the resource for you.  You can do this by filling out an ILL request or by clicking the “request” link from within OneSearch / EBSCO. (See picture below for an example) 

Step 4. Evaluate your sources

It is important when doing research to use sources that are reputable and if possible peer-reviewed.  Use the CRAAP method to help you identify credible sources for your work. 

Step 5 - Write and cite

CMTN library has guides to help you use many of the major citation styles in your work:

We also have a [Writing Help] guide that explores many of the different types of writing assignments you may encounter as a student at CMTN.


Avoid plagiarism by working through this plagiarism checklist once you've completed an assignment.  If you need advice on citation or plagiarism don't hesitate to ask a librarian!

For additional information on plagiarism and how to avoid it, check out these resources from Jenny Mao, one of CMTN's Learning Transformation Specialists.

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