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Get started with research

Learn how to use RRU Library resources to get started with your research.

Find a topic

There are many ways to generate topic ideas for an assignment:

  • Meet with your instructor. They can clarify assignment requirements and help you generate, develop, and provide examples of suitable topics.    
  • Talk to your classmates. Brainstorm ideas and figure out what interests you. 
  • Think about what you are studying in other classes. Are there ways to intersect or relate ideas with or in relation to another class?
  • Brainstorm! Create a mind map of keywords, ideas, items, subjects, and questions you have about the topic. 
  • Browse! Look at news articles, textbooks, and reference materials.  

Do background research

Once you've got an idea for your topic, searching for background information helps you to get an overview and determine questions or perspectives you might want to explore.

Google can be a good place to get grounded, as you will find news articles, top hits, and Wikipedia entries, all of which can provide a good overview of your topic. The boxes on this page offer specific tips on using Google and Wikipedia for preliminary searching.

Depending on your topic, you will likely have to look in a variety of places to find what you need. Google searches alone will not provide you with everything you need to support your academic papers. 

Information comes in a variety of packages, including:

  • books
  • journal articles
  • conference proceedings
  • government documents
  • policy briefs
  • reports
  • white papers
  • laws and legislation
  • statistics and data
  • newspapers
  • blogs
  • video sharing sites (e.g. YouTube)

Scholarly books, journal articles and conference proceedings are typically the most valued types of academic publishing. Academics and students alike are usually required to cite these kinds of sources when writing academic papers. Depending on your topic, though, other document types can be useful as well. Grey literature, for example, written by subject experts and published by governments or research groups, can be very relevant and reliable. Trade journals, written for practitioners rather than scholars, offer a perspective not included in scholarly literature.

Using Wikipedia

This online encyclopedia is a collaborative, cooperative effort by volunteer writers to provide up-to-date information on any subject imaginable. Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view and is free content that anyone can edit, use, modify, and distribute. Here are some do's and dont's for using Wikipedia for background research:


  • use Wikipedia to become familiar with a topic or as a starting point 
  • use Wikipedia to find more search terms or keywords for your research topic
  • use Wikipedia to find references that lead to scholarly resources


  • cite Wikipedia articles in your bibliography for assignments or papers
  • treat all information on Wikipedia as facts

Using Google

You can limit Google searches to particular files such as PDFs, PowerPoints, etc. This can be helpful when looking for reports, particularly by professional associations, organizations, and governments.

You can also limit results to sites with specific domains, such as .org, .edu, .mil, or .gov.

When you search, you are searching the Canadian version of Google. If you know the top-level country code domain for other countries, you can search their version of Google. Keep in mind that this will not necessarily change the language of the results you see, but will show you results Google thinks are more relevant to those in that country. This can be helpful when doing international research.

Example: Go to (Germany's version). Search for government privacy.

  1. Search for specific file types
  2. Search for specific domains
  3. Search for other country's versions of Google