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How to Research

Just getting started on a research paper or project? Don't know where to start? This is the guide for you!



Find and retrieve information to use in your research assignment.

Video Tutorials:

Find Articles

Articles can be found in newspapers, magazines, and journals (sometimes called periodicals). 

Use a newspaper article:

  • to find current information about international, national, and local events
  • to find editorials, commentaries, and expert, or popular opinions

Use a magazine article:

  • to find information or opinions about popular culture
  • to find up-to-date information about current events
  • to find general articles written for people who are not necessarily specialists in the topic area

Use a journal article:

  • when doing scholarly research
  • to find out what has been studied on a topic
  • to find bibliographies that point to relevant research on a topic

You can search and find articles by topic or type in the library databases. For most research, you will need to search multiple databases. To find the best database for your topic, use one of the Subject Guides or go to the Library's Complete Database List page. 

For example, you can start with a general database to find articles on most topics:

You can use subject-specific database to find articles most relevant to your topic:

You can use databases to find specific types of articles, like news or peer-reviewed articles:

MHC Library will attempt to fulfill requests for materials not currently available in its collection. MHC students, faculty, and staff may simply request items using the online library search box.

Find Books, eBooks, and Video

Use books & eBooks:

  • for detailed information on your topic
  • to put your topic in context
  • for historical information
  • for lists of references for further research
  • for summaries of research to support an argument

Books & eBooks may be found physically on a shelf at MHC, online, or at another library.

n order to find a book on the shelf, make sure you note the location/collection and write down the call number.

Book title: Substance use and abuse: Everything matters 

"Vera Bracken" is the Medicine Hat Campus Library. "MH Circulating Books" is the main book collection. We also have books in the Brooks Campus library and other locations in the Vera Bracken Library including Audiovisual, Curriculum, Reserves, and Display areas. Don't hesitate to ask library staff for assistance finding material. If the status is "Available" the book should be on the shelves. Otherwise it may be requested. The Call Number is HV 5840 C3 C75 2011. You will need the entire number to locate the book on the shelf.

Generally, books on a topic will be grouped together on the shelf. Sometimes books on a topic will be found in different sections of the library. For example, substance use might be covered in Psychology (B section), Social Sciences (H section) or Medicine (R section).

  • BF - Psychology
  • HV - Social work, social services, substance use, homelessness, crime
  • KE - Canadian law
  • QM - Human anatomy
  • RC - Diseases, disorders (substance use, eating disorders, arthritis, etc.)
  • RJ - Pediatrics
  • RM - Therapeutics (physical therapy, massage, exercise, pharmacology)
  • RT - Nursing

Most books may be borrowed for a four-week loan. Remember to bring your Student ID Card to the Service Desk to sign out material. 

If you find books not available in the MHC Libraries, you can request using the free interlibrary loan service.

Like most academic libraries, MHC Library's collection is organized using the Library of Congress classification system. This means that books on the same or similar subjects will be shelved together.

Each item has a unique call number. Call numbers are like addresses that point you to where each book “lives” on the shelf.

Call numbers are read line by line. For example, the call number for The Moral Advantage: How to Succeed in Business by Doing the Right Thing is HF 5387 D366 2004:

 Start with the top line, HF; items are arranged alphabetically by subject (HF Social Sciences. Commerce).  Single letters precede double letters. (A, B, BF, C, D ... H, HF …) 
 Then read the second line, 5387; items are ordered using whole numbers(1, 2, 3, 45, 500, 501, 5000,  5387… )
 Then read the third line,  D366; items are ordered alphabetically. Items starting with the same letter are then  arranged by decimal number. For D366 imagine D3.66 which would come before D4.
 The fourth line, 2004, is the year of publication.

While browsing for books can be interesting, you will miss out on items that are checked out, electronic items, and items that exist in different locations.

To find specific information, the most comprehensive method is to search the Library Catalogue.

DVDs can be located on the shelves of the Medicine Hat College Library. These items are located in the Audiovisual/Multimedia Collection and organized using Library of Congress Classification.

Streaming (Online) videos are also accessible through any internet connection. Access is restricted to MHC students, staff, and faculty. Enter your Student ID BARCODE for off campus access. The library subscribes to the following streaming collections:

Find Websites

Use websites to find:

  • current information
  • government information
  • company and corporate information
  • information from professional organizations
  • personal and expert opinions

Find websites using a search engine like Google or Yahoo!

Search engines are handy tools that help you find what you want on the Web.

Each search engine, such as Google, uses software (called a spider or a robot) to compile a database of pages found on the publicly accessible Web. When you enter a search, the search engine scans its database to match your terms to terms in the pages of its database.

Each search engine searches the part of the Web it has collected--not the whole Web--and each search engine has a somewhat different database.

Most of the Library Guides by subject include recommended websites for research.

Be Specific

  • Use nouns and unique words
  • Put the most important words first
  • Use multiple terms when possible

For example, if you were interested in "bias in newspapers" you could search for: 
newspapers bias slant censorship journalism

Use Descriptive Words

Use words that describe the kind of information you want.

For example, use words like policy or research to find sites that might be more scholarly, or words like controversydebate, or issueto find sites that cover both sides of an issue.

Use Quotes for Phrase Searches

To search for a phrase, use quotation marks. Many search engines will then search for the words within the quotation marks as a phrase, rather than as separate words.

For example, "world health organization"

Use Connectors

Check the search engine's help feature to discover what connectors it supports and how to use them. 

Find Images/Photos

Use images to visually enhance your learning.

Images can add impact to your presentations and assignments.

Examples of images include:

  • photographs
  • clipart
  • art
  • illustrations
  • maps
  • any other visual works


Most images (photographs, clipart, art, illustrations, maps or other visual works) are protected by copyright, and should only be used with permssion. Learn more about copyright.

Public Domain

Some images may be in the public domain, and are no longer under copyright, so no permission is required. 

Creative Commons

Many images are available under a Creative Commons license, which grants specific permissions.

Citing Images

All images should be credited or cited using the required citation style (APA, MLA, or other styles).

Find Primary Sources

You may come across the terms primary sources,  secondary sources, and tertiary sources.

Primary sources are original works or research before it has been commented on, analyzed, or interpreted. Examples include diaries, letters, and photographs.

Secondary sources provide commentary or analysis on primary sources. Examples include journal articles and books.

Tertiary sources consist of information which is a distillation and collection of primary and secondary sources. Examples include bibliographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and directories.

Where you find primary sources depends a lot on your discipline or field of study.

For literature students, the primary source is usually the text (novel, story, poem) you're studying. For art students, the primary source would be the artwork.

Historians often look for primary sources in archives, and more and more this archival content is being digitized and made available on the Internet.

In the sciences, the research that scientists are doing would be considered the primary source.

Check out the History Subject Guide for links to various digital collections of primary sources. 

Primary sources:

  • letters
  • maps
  • art
  • newspapers
  • videos and films
  • photographs
  • speeches
  • manuscripts

Secondary sources:

  • history textbooks
  • journal and magazine articles that review or provide analysis
  • books that provide criticism or commentary
  • encyclopedias

The following sub-headings can be added to subject headings when searching for primary sources:

  • sources
  • diaries
  • correspondence
  • interviews
  • personal narratives
  • pamphlets