Beeline first for encyclopedia entries related to your topic. These can be amazingly helpful for giving you:
A good background understanding of your topic.
Keywords and names you can use when doing research in the catalogue.
In many cases, a bibliography of key sources at the end of an entry.
Take a quick look at the UofT start your research page--it organizes encyclopedias and other brief sources by subject.
Browse our online research guides by subject (e.g. Graduate Theology, Celtic Studies, English Literature or Medieval Studies) or pick up the print copies beside the reference desk. These will help you find what you're looking for--fast. The UofT Library system also has online research guides--just look for your topic alphabetically.
Learn to use the library catalogue (http://www.library.utoronto.ca/). Just ask a reference librarian--the basics take only 10-15 minutes.
Search the catalogue for introductory books to build on the knowledge you've already gained from the encyclopedia. Don't bother reading the whole thing--just flip to the best parts. Use the contents and index pages to help you do this, and look out for bibliographies of useful books at the end of chapters.
To find articles:, click the UofT Libraries search and scroll down to your subject area (e.g. religion). Clicking a subject will give you a list of indexes to choose from. Here are a few key indexes we recommend:
When you find a really good article in an index, make sure you write down the key info: title, author, volume #, issue #, page #s and year. Sometimes articles are available online in full-text.
Once you've got a good basic grasp of a general topic, it's time to narrow your focus. Figure out what interests you. Brainstorm thoughts and opinions about the topic.
As you research in more depth, try to shape your ideas into the Basic Essay Structure (see the inside front cover). Ask yourself: What am I arguing? Why do I think so? The answer to your first question should be your thesis statement; the answer to the second should be the main arguments supporting this statement in the body of the paper.
Book an appointment at the Academic Writing Centre at least 2 weeks in advance.
Try to finish your rough draft at least a week early--this will allow you plenty of time to revise.
Now you're almost done, it's time to say in your paper where you got your information--this normally consists of documentation in the paper itself (e.g. footnotes, endnotes or citations) and a Works Cited (also called a bibliography). There are many citation formats, such as MLA and APA.