Example: James Bay and Great Whale ProjectsKeyword Searching
Compiling a BibliographyWriting in ScienceAcademic Integrity - How Not To PlagiarizeMendeleyZotero
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Last Updated: Mar 21, 2017 URL: http://researchguides.library.yorku.ca/chinguacousy Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Finding Sources You Can Trust



As the diagram indicates:

  • an idea first arises in the mind of a researcher or a group of researchers
  • the idea is then developed further over a few years of research.
  • It is then probably discussed informally in the Invisible College
    • which is the set of colleagues interested in and expert on a particular subject.
    • this kind of informal discussion may occur at seminars, at conferences, through mail or e-mail or on electronic newsgroups.
  • somewhat more formal stageis reached when the ideas
    • are presented at conferences that do not have published proceedings
  • An even more formal stageis when the ideas
    • are published as preprints or technical reports through the author's university department.
    Librarians often refer to this latter sort of publication as grey literature, indicating that it is shadow-like in the sense that it is more difficult to find libraries who have this form of publication than the forms of publication that we see below on the diagram.
  • The next stage is publication in the primary literature
  • either as an article in a journal OR
  • as a paper in a published conference proceedings;
  • these 2 forms of publication are called the primary literarture, since they are the most easily available, yet detailed record of the research.
  • The next stage is a description of the research in the secondary literature,
  • for example, abstracts and indexes, or review journals
  • which essentially summarize and point at the primary literature very soon after it has appeared;
  • the main purpose of this secondary literature is to facilitate access to scientific information soon after it has been published.
  • The final stage is a description of the research in the tertiary literature,
  • which also summarizes and points to the primary literature,
  • but generally only after it has become widely accepted and believed.
  • examples of tertiary literature include: handbooksencyclopaedias, and textbooks

Note that monographs (also called books) straddle the last two stages. This is because some monographs or books point only to well accepted scientific research, and other monographs point also to scientific research that is still being evaluated.


What kinds of document do scientists and engineers use

  • Peer review: researchers validating each others work before publication
  • Kinds of documents:
    • patents: government granted license to an invention
    • standards: agreed upon methodology: ie 802.11
    • journals: research results presented in a periodical/magazine. Peer reviewed.
    • trade literature: discipline-specific magazines. Not Peer Reviewed.
    • popular press: regular newspapers, magazines, websites. Not peer reviewed.
    • conference proceedings: research results presented at a meeting. Often peer reviewed, but not always.
    • technical report: description of a solution to a specific problem. Not peer reviewed.
    • books
      • reference: encyclopedias, tables, data collections, properties
      • manuals: lab methods, programming languages, operating systems
      • monographs: general topics
    • technical specifications: how a system, device or component works, ie circuit diagrams, software package


(Flow of Scientific Information, University of Waterloo, 2007)


Topics & Keywords

My research topic: Are local foods better for the environment? The idea of food miles or carbon foot print of foods that have to travel long distances versus local foods.

How to generate keywords & genergal knowledge? Try wikipedia!

How to think about Wikipedia and research?

  • Good place to start, not a good place to finish 
  • Source of general knowledge & vocabulary
  • Can also find links to good sources

Some useful search terms

  • carbon footprint
  • ecological footprint
  • locavore
  • local foods
  • 100 mile diet
  • food miles
  • food security
  • embodied energy
  • food and climate change
  • worst foods for climate change: beef? cheese?

There is a fair bit of literature dealing with these issues for Canada and even Toronto.

Other possible plan B or C topics: ground penetrating radar used for locating landmines // navigation system for self-driving cars.

Academic Integrity & Plagiarism

Finding Articles & Other Information

  • Academic OneFile
    Provides access to full-text of more than 4500 scholarly and popular periodicals with indexing for thousands more. Coverage of a wide variety of topics in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences makes it an excellent database for the initial stages of research.
  • Scholars Portal
    This resource consists of a single search screen that provides access to multiple databases for searching literature in a variety of disciplines. Choose a subject area or select specific databases to conduct a search.
  • IEEE Xplore
    Engineering-oriented information about electrical systems. Will have information about electrical usage, carbon footprint, etc.
  • PubMed
    Contains journal articles from the biomedical sciences. Provided free of charge online by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Coverage information is available at the NIH website. Coverage overlaps significantly with MEDLINE; see the NLM Fact Sheet What's the Difference Between MEDLINE and PubMed for more details. Visit the PubMed Tutorial Page for help.
  • Canadian Newsstand  Icon
    A searchable full-text database of major Canadian daily newspapers. Major titles include Calgary Herald (1988-), Edmonton Journal (1989-), Halifax Daily News (1990-), Montreal Gazette (1985-), National Post (1998-), Ottawa Citizen (1985-), Toronto Star (1985-), Vancouver Sun (1987-)

Need help?

Can't find what you're looking for? Need help with your research? 

Book a free appointment with one of our research specialists.

Visit a research/reference desk at one of the libraries.

Chat online with a research specialist.


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