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Economics: ECON 4822

Before You Search

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Key Economic Databases


Guide Your Project!

Your Project Log

You will be engaging in a 7-month long project.  Keep a project log to monitor and keep up with your project. You can start with writing down your first impression or reflection of what it is you are being asked to do in the course. You can write in the log periodically to jot down your immediate plan, what you want to achieve, what you actually did, next steps, and reflective notes as you work on the project. You can also break down the project activities in the context of the due dates assigned.  You can use any tool such as your Microsoft Office suite, Google calendar, Google Keep, Evernote, or a paper notebook. 

Your research project consists of Module 1, Module 2 and Module 3.  Module 2 and 3 involve data identification and statistical analysis for your project. Module 1 sets the stage for your project by framing your research question and identifying variables that would address the question.

Module 1

Contextualizing Your Research

Without a clear research question pinned down for your project, you will soon experience a roadblock to carrying out your research. To establish your research trajectory, you need the time to develop and shape your research question that will facilitate empirical analyses down the road.  Then, you can explore potential research questions based on the dataset you identified.

A literature review is a critical component of introducing your research in the final paper.  Therefore, in preparation for the literature review section, you will start identifying the sources that help contextualize what you are trying to do in your research. 

Starting your Search

To begin your literature search: 

Once you have identified a research question, you can begin to identify key words. Look at your research questions and pull out the important terms. 

e.g You are interested in investigating initiatives to influence unemployment. You are particularly interested in examining income support programs and their effects on unemployment in Canada.

Using the words you have identified as key terms you can now brainstorm synonyms for searching. Most databases will pull results based on the exact word provided. Including synonyms can expand the number of relevant results by providing the database with alternate, but synonymous, words to look for. 

e.g. Sample key word chart set up
Key Term 1 Key Term 2 Key Term 3
Income support programs Unemployment Canada

economic aid

financial assistance

income assistance

income support

government aid

government assistance

relief program



job loss




Now that you have identified your key words and synonyms, you can start combining them to form a search string. Use the Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to tell the search engine how to combine your words:

  Source: Instructional Technology, School District of Onalaska 

e.g. "Income support programs" AND unemployment AND Canada

To further narrow or broaden your search, you can add truncation (*), phrase searching ("") or wildcard (?) symbols to your search terms. For more information on how to use these, check out this Advance Search Techniques guide.

e.g. ("income support program* OR "income support") AND (unemploy* OR jobless*) AND (Canad*)

After you have entered and executed your search string, you can further narrow your results using filters found on the results page. You can limit your results by availability, resource type, subject, publication date, etc. 

(Note: different databases may have different filter options available. The filter options will typically be displayed on the left side bar of your results page)

After you have ran your search and applied your filters, you will need to screen your results for relevancy and credibility. If you are not finding the results you are looking for, you may need to repeat these steps to refine or tweak your search.

For more information on evaluating sources, visiting the Learn a the Libraries - Evaluating page. 

Repeat the above steps with a new, revised search strategy, if necessary.

When searching, remember the following:

  • Before you search, log in to the Library System.
  • Save searches or selected items to facilitate your research project.
    • Use the Favourite function of the Library System.
  • Make lots of notes for selected sources.
  • When you get a good sense that you are shaping a research question, meaning you know what you are trying to do in your project, you might be ready to gather your sources in a reference manager software (e.g. Zotero).

For more search tips and tricks visit our Searching Tips LibGuide or the University of Manitoba Libraries YouTube channel for instructional videos.

Literature Review

While browsing and reading research articles, you will see many examples of how literature reviews are undertaken in various research articles.  Examine them. 

Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review will guide you with various aspects and steps involved in doing a literature review.

[Pautasso, M. (2013).  Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review.  PLoS Computational Biology, 9(7), e1003149.]

The Literature Review section of your paper would synthesize what you found in the literature to frame your research.  Situating your specific research question in the Economics literature would help give professional validity to your work.

While searching and exploring your sources, take notes from your selected sources.  Your careful notes subsequently guide you to write up a draft literature review.  Here are useful tips about note-taking:


  • Effective Economics Reading
  • Active Note-Taking:
  • Think about what you want to get from your reading and why you are making notes – how much detail do you need to read, and how much detail is needed in your notes?
  • Look for answers to the questions you need to address: are you looking for definitions, examples, or debates/theories?
  • Look for connections between what the current text says and anything you have already read: do the authors agree? Disagree? Is there a sequence of events/actions to comment on?
  • Try to make most of your notes in your own words – factual information may only be phrased in a limited number of ways, but explanations of what something says or means will be best done in your own words so you can understand the meaning.
  • Keep any direct quotes short, and ensure they have a purpose: use the exact words when the author explains it is as significant as what the author says.

(Source:  Note taking from reading from University of Nottingham)

Common Note-Taking Tools:
  • OneNote (Microsoft Office for Windows)
  • WORD (Microsoft Office)
  • Notepad (Windows) and Notes (Mac)
  • Evernote (
  • a dedicated notebook with a pen or pencil

Citation Management Tool

  • To organize and manage your sources
  • To help you write a paper with in-text citations.
  • To help you create a bibliographer based on all the in-text citations you included.



When you conduct research, you want to keep track of your sources you selected and manage them so that you can create in-text citations and a bibliography to include in your research paper.  Zotero is an open-source citation management tool.  The tool like Zotero is priceless when you are dealing with a large number of sources for your research in a specified citation style, such as APA style.   You can download Zotero Standalone desktop client and set up your Zotero account to manage your sources and compile in-text citations and a bibliography. 

See Zotero LibGuide for more information about setting up your Zotero account and useful resources.

Alternatively, you can use Zoterobib to compile in-text citations and a bibliography without creating your account or database

Understanding APA Style

There are a number of useful sources for you to learn or review APA Style.