Write In Time

Resources and assistance with your research in this course.

Tutorials and Help Pages


Troubleshooting Searches

Too few articles:

  • Check for typos and spelling. Consider using both American and British spellings (eg. behaviour or behavior).
  • Remove long phrases.
  • Make sure you're using a database that is likely to include information on your topic.
  • Try using other synonyms and alternate words joined by the Boolean Operator 'OR' (e.g. aboriginal or indigenous or First Nations).
  • Check your Boolean logic.  Are you using 'AND' when you should be using 'OR'?
  • If you have found at least one good article, look at the references of this article to find other related articles OR use the 'Find citing' or 'Find related' buttons when available in the databases.

Too many articles:

  • Add another concept to your searching using the Boolean operator 'AND'.
  • Add Limits (e.g. Peer Reviewed, Date of Publication, Language, Publication Type, etc.).
  • Check your Boolean logic. Are you using 'OR' when you should be using 'AND'?
  • When Keyword searching, try searching just in the Title field. This is not recommended for all searches, as you will eliminate relevant articles that don't have those keywords in the title, but it will likely find a few articles to get you started.
  • If you're searching in a database that covers all subjects (e.g. Academic Search Elite, Web of Knowledge), look for a database that is subject specific.

Finding Articles

To find articles, you need a special type of database called an index.

  • You're already familiar with how an index in a book tells you which pages contain information about your search term. Well, an index to journal literature works similarly, telling you which journals have published articles concerning your topic.
  • Once you've searched an index to identify which articles might be useful, click the Get It! Trent button to link to the article in our full text journal databases.

Scholarly Articles Databases

We offer access to many databases, so it's sometimes difficult to decide which one to use. Scholarly articles are found using databases that describe articles from thousands of different journals.  Different databases cover different journals, so you don't always find what you want in the first place you look.

To find articles useful in this course, try one or more of these:

  • Academic Search Elite is a very friendly, easy-to-use database that covers all types of publications on almost any topic.  It's a great starting point.  Be sure to limit your results to "Scholarly Journals", so you avoid magazines and newspapers.
  • Large scale journal article indexing is offered through Arts & Humanities Citation Index and Academic OneFile.
  • Canadian Business and Current Affairs and CPI.Q cover Canadian journals & newspapers. Limit your results to "Academic", "Scholarly" or "Peer Reviewed" journals.
  • Scholars Portal Journals allows you to search and browse much of full text e-journals available at Trent (but not all). It offers options for "more like this", but the search engine is not as powerful.

Choose your favourite database, based on the descriptions of what they cover and which interface you prefer.  However, your best work uses several databases and several searches.

Not sure what all this means?  Review the tutorial on "Finding Articles".

Potential Keywords for your WRIT 1001H Assignment

Think carefully about the terms you'll search for.  Don't use a full sentence or question in a scholarly database.  Instead, select the most important term(s) and join them with "and" or "or".  See the Keyword Tutorial if you don't understand this.


Topic 1

A few suggestions for search terms are:

  • lexicography
  • crowdsourcing and dictionaries
  • "urban dictionary"
  • "oxford english dictionary" or OED
  • wiktionary

Topic 2

A few suggestions for search terms are:

  • "prescriptive grammar"
  • "descriptive grammar"
  • "language usage" and "social class"
  • subject: grammar and "social class"
  • "english language" and grammar and "social class"
  • dialect and "social class"
  • dialect and gender

Be creative; think of your own topic and potential keywords.  Some search terms will work better in some databases than others.

When You Find One Good Document

  • Look at the bibliography to help you find more!  What did that author read in order to write this paper?
  • What terms are used in the title or abstract?  These might be ideas for more search terms you can try.

NOT Scholarly

The following sources are interesting, informative, and probably reliable.  But they are NOT scholarly. 

Newspapers and magazines are written by writers, not scholars.  They may report on scholarly work, but they aren't scholarly publications. If you're seeing a lot of colour photos, click-bait, and ads - it's not scholarly. Find the actual scholarly publication they based the story on. Look for the author's qualifications - like a PhD.

Blogs and websites are not publications.  They're not permanent, so they can change. Scholars don't publish papers in blogs. Their research normally requires them to publish in recognized journals.  Look for a  journal title, volume, issue to show that it was actually published somewhere permanent.

Bibliographies are an essential part of scholarly communication; if there isn't one, it's not scholarly.