At some point during your time as a university student you will probably be required to write an essay or research paper. When that time comes, you can use this website to learn more about research and writing and connect with the people and resources available to help you succeed as a student. If you need assistance with this website or using the libraries you can email, phone, or schedule a face to face meeting with a librarian to get help. There are librarians at University of Manitoba for every subject area who can teach you how to find what you need for your coursework and research assignments.
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As a student you are part of a scholarly community that actually extends beyond this university. It includes students, professors and researchers at universities and colleges around the world sharing a common purpose: discovering, creating, and sharing new information.
When you write a paper in university you are often asked to do your research using scholarly sources. So, what are scholarly sources? The most common examples you will encounter are books and articles written and published by university researchers and professors. Scholarly articles are about new research and published in academic journals and found in university libraries... quite different from the types of articles found in magazines or newspapers. To be considered scholarly or academic these types of information sources have to meet basic criteria.
How do I know if it is a scholarly source?
With everything you read you should be asking yourself, "How can I know if what I am reading is fair, accurate, or true?" Is the source of information trustworthy and how do I know it can be trusted? This applies to all books, articles, and documents, including scholarly sources.
Suppose you read an article in a magazine or newspaper and found later that the author fabricated the information or distorted it to support a particular point of view. You would probably lose confidence in the author and may be less likely to trust the integrity of other articles they have written. Scholarly writing has requirements that encourage academics to produce honest, original research based on good evidence. These requirements ensure that scholars and students don't just make it up. They must do in-depth research, and give credit to others for the information and ideas they borrow. Following these requirements gives academic writing more credibility.
Information in books and articles is more credible when it includes:
A lot of students entering university for the first time may be accustomed to doing their research online using Google or Google Scholar. You can use Google Scholar to find scholarly sources but the Libraries' website is a better place to start your research. Here are a two reasons why.
Every year the library buys thousands of new books and eBooks and pays for subscriptions to journals that are not freely available online. So while you might be able to use Google to find scholarly articles in most cases you cannot read them without paying first. Before you consider spending money to read an article you found online check to see if the library can give you access. A portion of your tuition fees already pay for you to get access the same online content.
There are many books, articles, documents, and other types of information at the library that you will not find online because they have never been digitized and are only available in print.
Does that mean you shouldn't use Google Scholar? Google Scholar has many advantages but the bottom line is the library provides access to more than you can find online. Read more about Google Scholar in the section on Searching.
Your professor or instructor may also ask you to find articles that have been peer-reviewed. Peer Review is a process of subjecting an author’s work, research or ideas to the scrutiny of experts in the same field. It is a way to verify the credibility of an article before it is accepted for publication.
It is important to keep in mind that even though a journal is peer reviewed, an article in that journal may not be. Editorials, book reviews, reader comments, and news items may all appear in a journal without going through the peer review process because they are not the types of academic articles that are referenced in scholarly research.
When you search the library there are two ways to know if an article is peer-reviewed.
Can you find them in the example below? (Hint: watch the video above.)
In the same way journalists publish articles in newspapers, researchers publish articles about their research in academic journals to share their work with other academics and make it available to the public. Research articles are typically published in academic journals that you can find at a university library.
You may have been given a research topic for your assignment, or you may have chosen one yourself. Either way, when you need to find an article you can’t realistically look through hundreds of journal issues one by one to see if they have published something you can use. It would be much more efficient if you could search multiple journals at the same time. Databases allow you to do this. Databases are websites that keep a record of articles published by a large number of journals so students and scholars can find the information they need quickly.
It is not always easy to know what database to search. Some only include journals for specific subjects such as health, sociology, or chemistry. Other databases are multidisciplinary. At UM Libraries you can view our Databases A-Z list and search for databases by subject area. You can also visit our subject guides to find out what databases are recommended by librarians. If you are not sure what database to choose you can just search the library. Most databases can be searched simultaneously using the Library Search.
At the Libraries books and articles may be available in print or online and sometimes both. Unless your assignment says otherwise, it is ok to use online or print sources. The difference is the format, not the content. Most articles that you find at the Libraries will be downloadable pdf files that you can print or read on a computer or tablet. Ebooks can be more complicated. Borrowing periods are often much shorter and they may have restrictions on how many pages can be downloaded or printed. You may also need to download Adobe Digital Editions to read Ebooks if they are not available as pdfs and in many cases, just like print books, if another student has "checked out" an ebook you will need to wait until they return it before you can access it yourself.
When you find a book using the library search, how do you know if it is available as a print book or an ebook? Print books will have a book icon appear beside the words “Available at” and tell you the library location and call number. When a link icon appears beside the words “Full text available,” that means you are looking at an ebook. In the case of the example below, you can see that it is available both in print and online. It can be found at the Université Saint Boniface Library on the shelf with the call number E78 .M25 M122s. You can also access the online version by choosing "Full Text Available".
Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources
A secondary source is a second hand account where the author did not experience an event or time period first hand. Secondary sources use primary sources as evidence.
In many courses you may be asked to use a primary source for an assignment. Primary sources are any original, firsthand account of an event or time period. Personal letters or diaries are common examples but the format of a primary source may vary from written text to photographs or audio recordings.
Most often you will find primary sources in archives but because many historical documents have been digitized they can also be accessed from some library databases and websites. The University of Manitoba has its own Archives & Special Collections and you can search primary source databases available through UM Libraries. Other common online sources of primary sources are Hathi Trust and the Internet Archive.
In some cases it may be difficult to tell if something is a primary or secondary source. For instance, while some articles appearing in newspapers may be firsthand accounts often news reports are based on information gathered from a range of sources. If you are unsure of whether or not something is a primary source you can ask a librarian or archivist.
Primary Source Examples
Secondary Source Examples
It is important to evaluate the validity of a primary source in the same way you would evaluate a secondary source. Firsthand accounts may provide a closer perspective of an historical event but they can be equally biased or inaccurate because of the limitations of the author's experiences or beliefs. When analyzing primary sources you can use the 5Ws to help you learn more about what they can contribute to our understanding of the past.
Who made it?
Who is the creator? Who wrote, published, photographed, recorded, or otherwise made the document? Sometimes it is straight forward, such as a letter or a report. Other times, it could be a photograph taken by an unknown photographer.
What is it?
Consider what kind of primary source you have. For example, is it a photograph or field notebook? What technology was used to create it? How might this change the way you read or view it? If the source is an audio oral history how would it be different if the oral history was in a video format?
Where was it created?
Knowing the place a document was created is another aspect of understanding its context. If the record of a document from WWI was archived in Winnipeg or at Vimy Ridge, how would that make it different?
When was it created?
In what time period was the material created? It is important to be able to place the creation of the document on a timeline in relation to other events you are researching. For example, research in biology during the 1980s may no longer be considered new or groundbreaking but, it can show you how far scientific research in that field has come.
Why was it created?
Try to determine the message the document was conveying in its particular time and context. What audience was the creator trying to reach? And for what purpose?
Use the following questions to help you choose the correct way to cite primary source materials.
If you need more help with citing primary sources you can ask a librarian or archivist.
A citation is a way of identifying the source of a quotation or information that has been borrowed from another author. You will see citations appear in the scholarly books and articles you use in your research and you are expected to use them in your own writing at the university. Referencing the work of others is an ethical part of being member of a scholarly community. Most importantly, citations are a way of giving others credit for their work but there are other reasons why you are expected to reference your sources.
Learning to create references will also help you to understand how to read references, which you will find in almost all of your academic reading. That means that when you find a good source for an assignment, you can use the reference list to find related sources. You can even start from the reference list of an assigned reading.
There are different styles of citations, each of which looks a little different. All citation styles consist of 2 parts. First, there is an in-text citation, which you include in your writing to indicate you have used an outside source. Second is the reference list (sometimes called a "bibliography" or "works cited"). Each in-text citation has a matching reference in this list, which comes at the end of your assignment.
The Chicago style is an exception and requires 3 parts: an in-text citation, a footnote or endnote, and a bibliography. Below are examples of commonly used citation styles. Learn more about citation styles in the section on Citing.
Most commonly used in the social sciences.In Text
Austerity measures in health and social spending in England since 2010 are projected to cost 120 000 lives by 2020 (Watkins et al., 2017).References
Watkins, J., Wulaningsih, W., Da Zhou, C., Marshall, D. C., Sylianteng, G. D. C., Dela Rosa, P. G., … Maruthappu, M. (2017). Effects of health and social care spending constraints on mortality in England: a time trend analysis. BMJ Open, 7(11), e017722. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017722
Most commonly used in the humanities.In Text
Austerity measures in health and social spending in England since 2010 are projected to cost 120 000 lives by 2020 (Watkins et al. 6).Bibliography
Watkins, Johnathan, et al. ‘Effects of Health and Social Care Spending Constraints on Mortality in England: A Time Trend Analysis’. BMJ Open, vol. 7, no. 11, Nov. 2017, p. e017722. Crossref, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017722.
Most commonly used in the health sciences.In Text
Austerity measures in health and social spending in England since 2010 are projected to cost 120 000 lives by 2020.1References
1. Watkins J, Wulaningsih W, Da Zhou C, et al. Effects of health and social care spending constraints on mortality in England: a time trend analysis. BMJ Open. 2017;7(11):e017722. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017722
Most commonly used in the humanities and social sciences.In Text
Austerity measures in health and social spending in England since 2010 are projected to cost 120 000 lives by 2020.1Note
1. Johnathan Watkins et al., “Effects of Health and Social Care Spending Constraints on Mortality in England: A Time Trend Analysis,” BMJ Open 7, (November 2017): 6. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017722Bibliography
Watkins, Jonathan, Wahyu Wulaningsih, Charlie Da Zhou, Dominic C. Marshall, Guia D. C. Sylianteng, Phyllis G. Dela Rosa, Viveka A. Miguel, Rosalind Raine, Lawrence P. King, and Mahiben Maruthappu. “Effects of Health and Social Care Spending Constraints on Mortality in England: A Time Trend Analysis,” BMJ Open 7, (November 2017): 1-9. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017722