Research Skills

  • Four Steps to a Successful Research Project
  • Step 1: Getting ready, preparing

    NOTE: Do you know exactly what you have to do? If not, ask your teacher. Then follow these easy steps.

    • Write down what you already know about the subject. What more do you want to know?
    • Brainstorm! Write down every useful word you can think of about the subject.

  • Step 2: Searching for the information, accessing

    Now you have some search terms and keywords. Where do you start looking?

    NOTE: Has your teacher told you that you must use different resources? If so, keep that in mind as you choose what to use.

    • Books! Use the Online Catalogue or the catalogue in the library to find books or videos on the subject. Ask the library staff if you get stuck. Maybe an encyclopedia article will give you just the right words or facts that you need. Remember that some encyclopedias are online and also in print. Or go right to the shelves and browse. Want more information on how books are arranged? Do the Dewey! (
    • Databases! Not all of the web is free. Toronto Public Library pays to have the very best information available for you online.  You need a library card to use these databases if you are doing it from home. Take a look below and decide which ones might help you best.
    • KidsSpace! Maybe we've done some of the work for you! Browse through our Homework A-Z section or use the Search.
    • The Internet! There's a lot of good information online but how do you know which websites to look at?    

    Search Tips:

    1. Know what you're looking for - If you want information on blue jays, don't type in birds. Be specific!
    2. Put words in quotation marks - If the words must go together, put them in quotation marks. "Toronto Blue Jays" will bring up the baseball team while Toronto Blue Jays will often give you the city and the birds.
    3. Capitalize - Capitalizing a proper name will increase your chances of getting what you want. China will give you the country; china will give you sites on dishes!
    4. Check your spelling - Most search engines will look for exactly what you have written. Pionear homes might not give you log cabins while pioneer homes will.
    5. Use connecting words - Using the word "and" will ensure that both words you are looking for show up in the same web page. For example, using "Argonauts and football" would bring up a Toronto football team but not mythic heroes. Using the word "or" means that you are searching for sites with either word eg.: leopards or panthers.
    6. Try other words - If one set of words don't help, try some of the other ones you wrote down.

    Now you've found lots of sites. How do you decide which are the best ones? Go through this checklist first: If you cannot answer the questions below, you cannot rely on the accuracy of the information.

    1. Who put this information on the Internet?
    2. When was it put there? Is there a date on the page?
    3. Is the information meant to be serious, or is it a joke?
    4. How do you know where this information comes from?
    5. Is the information biased? Does it give only one opinion? Are there links to other sources?
    6. Who is the information meant for?

  • Step 3: Getting the information, processing

    More help for homework research: You have lots of places to look for information. What's the best way to keep track of it all?

    How to write a research paper

    This excellent webpage should help: Info Please (

    This is a good guide too: Research Processing (

    How to cite sources?

    Try Source Citation (

    Fact Monster has some useful research tips (

    The Big 6 ( is an easy to read version of the same sort of help.

  • Step 4: Getting it on paper, transferring

    Want to create an online presentation?

    Add some zip to your project with this Clipart Gallery. (

    Good luck!

The Toronto Public Library has bought some wonderful information for you to use online. Just as we buy books for the library, we buy these encyclopedias and other databases. That’s why you’ll need a library card to use them. Here are some of the best ones and what they are most useful for.

Online Encyclopedia and Databases

  • BrainFuse

    Online homework help for students in grades K-12 offered daily from 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Also includes practice tests, writing assistance, skills building and more.

  • Novelist K-8 Plus,uid&profile=novpk8

    Find the perfect fiction books to read. Start your search by using your favourite author, book or topic to find more books that you'll enjoy reading. Includes book reviews. You will need a TPL library card to search this database.

  • CDN The Canadian Encyclopedia Online

    Are you looking for Canadian information? Check here first.