Public and International Affairs

Doing Research in Social Sciences

Research is an iterative and creative process that allows you to answer a research question.

Doing research - Main steps

- Preparation of your search (Identifying the key concepts in your research question, finding your keywords, and using the search operators).

- Discovery of material (Explore platforms such as our library catalogue, databases, Google Scholar, etc.)

Retrieval of material (Identify books, articles, reports, etc., and evaluate the quality of material found)

- Extraction of useful information (review of the literature)

- Analysis and citation of sources (Zotero)


For more details on the different steps of research in Social Sciences check the following guide: 

Social Sciences - An Introduction to Library Research

What do you need to know before starting?

Some tips to get you started with the right foot

The following are key elements you need to reflect on before starting your searches for the material needed.

They will help you go in the right direction and save time.

Click on the links for more details.

Contact your librarian if you have further questions:

- Understand that information evolves through time (Video) *

- Learn to choose your sources (Video)

- Identify the potential producers of the information needed (experts, governments, institutions, NGOs, IGOs, etc.)

- Not all that is published should be used for or cited in your research paper, evaluate the quality of your sources

- Not all publications are peer-reviewed

- You do not always need only peer-reviewed sources, sometimes you need books and government reports.

- Some sources are only useful for information/exploration/discovery, some sources can be cited in your paper, and some sources should not be used or cited.

- A sheet of paper is an irreplaceable heuristic tool! Use it before running your searches.

- See searching as a strategic exploration **

- Research is a very personal and creative process

*Burkhardt, J. M., MacDonald, M. C., & Rathemacher, A. J. (2010). Teaching information literacy: 50 standards-based exercises for college students (2nd ed). American Library Association.

**ACRL. (2015). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL).

What type of information do you need?

  • General information or in-depth information - try books from the library catalog, you can limit the search to only books using the resource type menu.
  • Scholarly articles – For databases containing articles relevant to your topic, ask yourself « which discipline(s) would discuss my topic »? Go to the research guide for that discipline and look for a tab called « articles » - it will suggest databases that should contain articles relevant to that discipline, and thus to your topic. You can also find a specific journal using our library catalogue journal search tool

If you have questions, please contact your librarian Majela Guzman :

Generative AI Toolkit

Before utilizing Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT for academic purposes, it is advisable to consult your professor, as different courses may have varying policies in place. Check here for more details.

How should I use artificial intelligence ethically in research?

  • Responsibility: Ensure that the AI system is designed and used in a manner that’s safe, transparent and accountable.
  • Fairness: Avoid creating or perpetuating biases and discrimination in AI systems and ensure equal treatment for all individuals.
  • Privacy: Protect the privacy of individuals and ensure that personal data is collected, stored and used securely and responsibly, according to uOttawa and Tri-Council policies on research with human subjects.
  • Transparency: Provide clear explanations of how AI systems work and make their decision-making processes transparent and understandable.
  • Attribution: Cite the use of AI and the manner that it has been used in the research.
  • Human control: Ensure that AI systems are designed to support, rather than replace, human decision-making and remain under human control.
  • Non-maleficence: Avoid causing harm through the use of AI and ensure that AI systems aren’t used to cause harm or engage in unethical behaviour.
  • Beneficence: Use AI to bring about positive outcomes and to benefit society as a whole.

(University of Ottawa, 2023)

IMPORTANT: Generative AI tools are designed to be used for brainstorming, and getting you started. When doing research, ALWAYS use the library catalogue, the research databases relevant to your discipline, and academic sources. If you are using AI tools to get you started: ALWAYS verify the information using the library catalogue, databases, or academic sources.

Some Generative AI tools that you can use to start your research:

In the following list, you'll find the links to the platforms in their titles and a short video to learn more about how to use them for research. 

- Microsoft Copilot (Access via Microsoft Edge browser or app): Access the functionalities of GPT4 for free using the creative mode- A Quick Guide to COPILOT

-Claude 3.5 Sonnet: is now available for free on and the Claude iOS app.

- Elicit: Elicit uses language models for extracting information from research papers and providing summaries. The results are not always accurate. - Short video to see how it works and another short video for understanding its limitations

-Consensus: A search engine that uses AI to find insights in research papers - Short video on how it works Assistant: A research assistant for finding supporting evidence for your arguments in the scientific literature - Short video on how it works

-Research Rabbit: Citation-based literature mapping tool - Short video on how it works

Research Skills Self-Assessment Tool

Using ChatGPT for academic purposes (Infographic)