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CMPT 105W: Library research guide

This web page is intended to help you with your CMPT 105W assignments. Also refer to the research guides for Computing Science and Engineering Science for general information. Start early so you can get the information and assistance you need.

If you need help, please contact Holly Hendrigan, Liaison Librarian, Faculty of Applied Sciences at 778.782.8023 or holly_hendrigan@sfu.ca or Ask a librarian.

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Research process

In research, it is best to move from general to specific sources as you learn more about your topic and focus on the aspects that interest you. Begin by finding background information in books (including encyclopedias). Once you have enough background information and understand the topic, search for focused and current information in journal articles.

Popular science magazines summarize recent reports from the primary scholarly literature for the general public; scholarly journal articles provide sharply focused information on discoveries, research and recent events.

Search strategies & tips

Identify your research topic:

Your first step is to identify the information that you are trying to find. Although you have the same broad topic for both of your assignments, you will be looking for different information for each paper. Be sure you know what you are searching for before you start looking. 

A sample informative paper might focus on Facebook (i.e., its history, the current state of the technology behind online social networking sites, the technology behind Facebook, future trends, and issues related to FB, including privacy, addiction, and online safety).

A sample persuasive paper might try to convince the reader about a topic related to Facebook and privacy (e.g., that Facebook should not supply user data to third parties).

Clearly, you will need to find much more background information for the informative paper, while the persuasive paper will involve research on a much more focused topic.

News Sources can help you find controversial topics. 

Identify words for your search:

What words will you use to search for information? For my persuasive paper, two key terms would be Facebook and privacy. However, I would need to think about other keywords to use for searching (i.e., synonyms and related terms).

  • Facebook possible related terms: social networks, online social networks, Twitter (and other online social networks that may have different policies about sharing user data) 
  • privacy possible related terms: data mining, legislation, rights

Background information

You should begin your research by looking for background information on your topic. This information is often found in reference books (e.g., encyclopedias, handbooks). After you have found the necessary background information on your topic, you can search for articles. (Without some basic knowledge, scholarly articles might be unnecessarily confusing.)

The reference books that are useful to you will really depend on your topic. Here are some online reference books that might include background information on your topic:

There are many other good resources (online and in print) listed in the "Background Information" sections of the Computing Science and Engineering Science research guides.

Finding books

To find relevant information on your topic in online and print books, use the default search on the Library home page ("Library Search") Books will appear in the middle column. 

You may also wish to narrow your search to our technical e-book collections, such as: 

Safari Tech Books OnlineIncludes titles from publishers such as  O'Reilly, Pearson, and CRC. Some titles assume very little technical knowledge (eg also includes the "For Dummies" series.)  

Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) Includes conference proceedings, edited multiauthor volumes, books, and theses. Highly technical.

Tip on using Subject Headings: Check a book's subject headings  (listed under Details) in the catalogue record that can be used to find books about your topic. For example, the  book Electronic Monitoring in the Workplace: Controversies and Solutions includes: Electronic monitoring in the workplace; Privacy, Right of; and Supervision of employees. When you click on any subject heading, you can find more books about the same topic.

For help with the catalogue, ask a librarian or see the SFU Library Catalogue Search Guide.

Finding articles

It is difficult to give a list of the top resources for finding articles because your topics can vary greatly. Here are some suggestions for some places to try (which ones you use will depend on your topic):

  • Library Search: Left hand column occasionally provides useful resources. Good place to start (but be prepared to search databases as well to increase your chances of finding relevant articles. 
  • Academic Search Complete
    Includes articles from a range of academic journals and popular magazines. Covers a broad range of topics.
  • Google Scholar
    Search engine that includes scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research.
  • IEEE/IET Electronic Library 
    A database of worldwide literature in electronics and electrical engineering, computers and control, physics and information technology.
  • ACM Online Guide to Computing Literature
    Full-text of all journals and conference proceedings published by the Association for Computing Machinery, plus selected material in computer science from other publishers.
  • Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science
    A collection of over 1000 online volumes from this core series in computing science.
  • Applied Science and Technology Index
    Citations for articles on applied science and technology topics such as engineering, computer science, and robotics.
  • Science Indexes
    Citations for articles on science, applied science, and technology.

Other resources (e.g., newspaper articles, reports):

  • Canadian Newsstream
    Full-text articles for major Canadian newspapers such as Globe & Mail and Vancouver Sun, as well as some local papers.
  • CBCA Complete
    Includes articles from many Canadian newspapers, popular magazines, and scholarly journals.
  • Canadian Electronic Library
    Publications from a variety of Canadian public policy institutes, research institutes, think tanks, advocacy groups, government agencies and university research centres.
  • Canadian Points of View Reference Centre
    Includes overviews of many controversial topics related to Canada.

Popular vs. scholarly publications

It is important for you to understand the differences in the type of publications you will encounter. Often popular science magazines will summarize recent reports from the primary scholarly literature for the general public. Scholarly publications report on new research or ideas and are used for scholarly communication. Each of these types of publications can be found in print and on the web.

See SFU Library's What is a Scholarly Journal? guide to help you distinguish between popular and scholarly sources. 

For a more detailed overview of the peer review process, see the Library's What is a peer-reviewed journal FAQ.

To help you evaluate the information you find on the internet, see SFU Library's guide Finding and Evaluating Resources.

Citing sources

When citing sources, you will need to use a citation style. For your informative paper, you will be using IEEE style, and for your persuasive paper, you will be using APA style. 

It is always important to cite your sources. Citing your sources allows you to give credit to the original researchers, to point your reader(s) to where you found information, and to show that you know how to correctly cite sources.

Questions about what constitutes plagiarism? Try the SFU Library's Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism tutorial. If you have questions about citing or doing research, please ask a librarian.

IEEE style guides:

APA style guides:

If the document you are trying to cite is not included in either of these APA guides, you should consult the latest edition of the APA Publication Manual.

Giving presentations

For some advice on giving a presentation, take a look at SFU Library's Business Presentations page. It is useful for non-Business students and includes links to a variety of excellent resources, including handouts, books, and videos.

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