This question came to me from students in Psychology 3313, but I’ve tried to make my answers as general as possible! – HC
Citing legal information can feel like a really un-fun treasure hunt: our APA citation guide, for example, refers you to the Publication Manual, which refers you to Appendix 7.1 which refers to you to the Bluebook. Then when you look at the Bluebook the examples are American. Annoying.
So, first thing’s first:
- What country is your court decision/case from? If it’s American use the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. If it’s Canadian, use the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation instead. Either way, these resources are located in the library’s reference section. If it’s from outside Canada or the US I would suggest asking a librarian or emailing the Law Library’s reference desk.
- Build your citation. If you find the books difficult to understand (e.g. if you’re inexperienced with legal terminology, like me), I recommend checking out one of the following helpful resources for actually creating your citation. These guides are helpful as they break down the instructions in the Canadian Guide and the Bluebook.
- Queen’s University Library – Guide to Canadian Legal Citation
- Carlton University Library – Citing Legal Sources (see p. 2 “Citing Jurisprudence”)
- Cornell University – Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (browse menu on the left)
- Georgetown – Citing Cases
If you’d like some additional assistance from a librarian, feel free to contact the Law Library (or me, of course!)
Often when students are struggling with irrelevant research results it’s actually their topic that needs work. For most, their topics are either too broad or too narrow (see examples below). There are a few things you can do, though, to help improve your topic.
Is your topic SMART?
- Specific – Is your topic too broad for the scope of your assignment (e.g. How can you be an ethical leader)? Too narrow (Steve Jobs and the ethical leadership of Apple)? Or just right (e.g. Is being ethical an essential quality of leadership)?
- Measurable – What will you be discussing or measuring throughout your paper? (In what ways is X affected by Y? How is X related to Y? What is the impact of X? How are X and Y related?)
- Attainable – Can you answer your research question within the limits of your paper? (e.g. You have 7-9 pages; at least 2 pages will be taken up by your introduction, background information, and conclusions. So you have 5-7 pages to actually answer your research question).
- Relevant – Is your topic related to the course? Does it meet the expectations of your professor? Are you interested in it?
- Timely – Can you answer the question, get all the research you need, and write the assignment before the due date? Also, is your topic too recent? Can there feasibly be academic research available on it?
Try turning your topic idea into a researchable question:
- Ask the 5W’s of your topic
Who – what population are you talking about? (e.g. university students)
What – what about that population? (that they’re stressed and don’t eat well as a result)
Where – what geographical area are you focusing on? (e.g. Canada)
When – what time period will you focus on? (e.g. last twenty years)
Why – why does this topic matter? What does it have to do with your assignment/course? (e.g. ifIf you can’t answer all 5W’s you will need to do more background research first!
- Then ask yourself ‘How’?
This is the “measurable” part of your SMART question (How are X and Y related; How does X influence Y)
Asking the question HOW about your 5W’s can often help you develop a great research question!How does stress affect the eating habits of university students in Canada? (Note: I didn’t use “when” but that’s okay I think!)
And, just in case they’re helpful, here are some common types of research questions (Note: these ideas aren’t mine, so please cite the original author)!
- Definitions (While many people think X is a Y, can it better thought of as a Z?)
- Evaluation (Can you argue that your person/activity/quality/thing is good, better or best (or bad, worse, or worst) compared to its peers?
- Compare/contrast (Are there things/elements/people who are similar or dissimilar to the one you are thinking about?)
- Explanation (Obvious causes of X; How Y would not have happened without X; Alternative causes to X than what is currently assumed)
- Counter argument (Argue against what is currently assumed to be true)
- Justification (Why does something matter? Argue for something people haven’t previously considered that you think matters a great deal)
Source: Hacker, Diane. (2009). A Canadian writer’s reference, 4th ed. Boston: Bedford.
DOI is an acronym for “digital object identifier”, meaning a “digital identifier of an object” rather than an “identifier of a digital object”.
The DOI system is designed to work over the Internet. A DOI name is permanently assigned to an object (e.g. a journal article) to provide a persistent link to current information about that item, including where the object (or information about it) can be found on the Internet. While information about an object can change over time, its DOI name will not change.
For more information about DOI’s, visit the DOI website: http://www.doi.org/.
We’re sometimes asked: are DOI’s permanent or can they be changed? (e.g. when a journal is made available in pre-publication and then gets published in a journal). The IDF does not have any specific rules on this (we could only find reference that “Individual Registering Agencies (RAs) adopt appropriate rules for their community and application”). In general, if substantial changes are made to a document or it is necessary to identify both the original and the changed material, a new DOI is assigned. It’s safe to assume, then, that *most* of the time DOI’s will stay the same throughout the life of a document
Note: this post was written by guest editor Alison Foster. Thanks Alison! – HC
If we received this question at the library desk, our first response is always: “ask your prof.” They’re the ones grading your assignments and are the ultimate authority. That said, students will often ask us for our “professional opinion,” so I’ll give a few tips below.
In my experience, there is no set number of resources required for a paper. Often, scholars will include a large volume of resources, in order to address the major points made in their research paper and support their argument/thesis. In the case of student assignments, you will often be asked to include a minimum number of assignments, but rarely asked to limit yourself (always check your assignment guidelines!). Overall, my response is: include as many resources as you need to support your ideas!
A great way to determine if you have included an appropriate amount of resources is to ask yourself these questions:
- Have a backed up all of my key points with relevant and credible resources? Are there any gaps or unsupported statements in my essay?
- Am I relying too heavily on a source? Do I have 2-3 sources to back up each of my key points?
- If I have some unsupported points in my essay, could I back them up using resources that I have already cited/read?
- If my paper addresses a controversial issue or topic, have I included resources that address both sides of the issue?
Looking over your work for information gaps is a valuable skill that will help you in your present and future research!
This blog post was co-written by Alison Foster. Thanks Alison!
How do I write a Literature Review?
The guidelines for writing a literature review are generally the same for most disciplines, but the practice may be different for each professor or subject. Read your assignment instructions, as they may differ from the guidelines below.
What is a Literature Review?
In general, a literature review is an overview of what has been published on a particular topic by credible researchers and scholars. Literature reviews can be stand-alone assignments, the first step of a research project, or a chapter in a thesis or dissertation. They are not the same as annotated bibliographies or systematic reviews (check back for a blog post on how to write a systematic review).
A literature review includes:
- An overview of your research topic and a clear statement of your research objective (usually a hypothesis or research questions you’re trying to answer)
- A description of your topic’s main ideas or issues
- A critical analysis of the resources you find (for example, are certain aspects of your topic controversial or less-supported by researchers in that field of study?)
- Questions for further research or investigation
How to Prepare your Literature Review
- Make sure you clearly understand your topic, and your research objective (a.k.a. what is the scope of your literature review? What publication dates are you going to include? What is the purpose of your assignment? What are you hoping to prove?)
- Example: Your topic is “depression in adolescents”.
- What concepts are you going to review: the role of adolescents’ families on their depression? Genetics? Peer pressure and social influences? Substance abuse? The outcomes of depression?
- What dates are you going to cover? The last 5 years? 10? Do your assignment instructions say?
- Do you have to provide an argument or thesis?
- Conduct your research.
- Search systematically, or have some sort of plan. My suggestion is to look for big, overarching resources first and then work down (see a librarian if this part is confusing):
- For arts and social sciences disciplines, start with books or resources that will give an overview on your topic. For scientific disciplines, including psychology, see if there are systematic reviews or meta-analyses on your topic. Look first for resources that tell you “what is accepted as fact, or truth, about my topic?”
- Then read the literature review sections of other books or journal articles: do they align with the other things you’ve read?
- Finally, look for the more controversial or recent research on your topic (journal articles are often the place to find this type of information).
- Use a wide variety of resources. Don’t just rely on journal articles, or just books. Your prof will give you details on their expectations (e.g. some assignments may require you to include grey literature) but make sure you’re not missing important research by just looking at one type of resource.
- Search in a wide variety of places. At least use the Shared Library Catalogue and two subject specific databases. Follow this up with either a Summon search or a Google Scholar search to see if you missed anything.
- Ask for help. Researching is often the most time-consuming (but rewarding!) step in this process; check out these blog posts on how to start your research and tips on searching or ask a librarian for assistance in making a research plan.
- Evaluate the resources that you have found; only include materials that offer significant, credible information on your topic. Again, for most literature reviews you shouldn’t talk about every resource you’ve found, but only the main findings or major conclusions about your topic. (See more information on evaluating resources for credibility in this blog post).
- Analyze your research. Look for key points about your topic, or common themes, so that you can give a complete account of what is and what is not known about your topic. In addition, you might point out areas of controversy in the literature. If your literature review is supposed to have an argument, spend time reading for evidence to support this argument.
- Prepare to write your literature review. Make sure to be clear on your assignment instructions, including whether you’re supposed to argue or prove something (which is usually the case). There are a few ways you can organize your literature review:
- Chronologically, or by historical development
- Order of importance
- By theme
- By methodology
- Different perspectives, or viewpoints on a controversial issue
Tips on writing your Literature Review
- A literature review is meant to be a discussion of the themes and trends associated with your research objective, not a list of the resources that you have reviewed. Make sure that you are organizing your review in a way that is offering a synthesis of the resources you chose, rather than a list of the resources.
- Based on your research, you may include a few questions for further investigation on your research area. For example, a literature review of a recent discovery in clinical nutrition may include information on past research, current developments and controversies, and the implications of these studies on future research of this topic.
- Make sure that you are being unbiased in your research and, subsequently, in your literature review. Presenting only one side of an issue can weaken an otherwise informative literature review. You may have to ask yourself, “is there another side to this issue?” and “does my literature review present both sides of my research objective in an objective, unbiased manner?”
- The research step can often be the most time-consuming but rewarding aspect of this process! If it seems like the resources available on your topic are not credible or you are having trouble finding resources, talk to your professor or a librarian.
Where to get extra help
Sample Literature Reviews