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Quick Tips on Preparing For Research

Before you start:

  • understand the key terms you may be using as well as the general area that interests you;
  • think about ways to narrow your topic, making it as specific as possible (unless you have been given a specific topic to research!);
  • create a thesis statement;
  • list  the main concepts (key words) included in your thesis statement (research question), then based on your readings;
  • find as many synonyms as you can for each main concept. You are now ready to start searching in the library's catalogue and databases.

When you are looking for definitions or if you don’t know much about a specific subject, reference works such as dictionaries and encyclopedias become invaluable because they contain relatively short—and understandable—articles. These articles often lay out the parameters of a subject and can assist you in trying to narrow your topic. Often such articles are accompanied by lists of readings (bibliographies) which allow you to explore your topic further.

 A good general reference work is: Native Peoples A to Z : A Reference Guide to Native Peoples of the Western Hemisphere, which the publisher describes as " A current reference work that reflects the changing times and attitudes of, and towards the indigenous peoples of all the regions of the Americas."


Over the years the terminology used to describe Indigenous peoples has changed, especially by non-indigenous peoples when referring to Indigenous peoples. For example, Indian was used for the longest time, but it is no longer viewed as an appropriate term to describe Canada's Indigenous populations. This page provides links to resources that deal with terminology and Indigenous studies:

Atlases, Dictionaries and Encyclopedias