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Commerce Subject Guide: COMM 1011: Business Studies

A guide to key databases, reference & web sources, and research & citation guides for Commerce.

Commerce 1011: Business Studies

Research Information for Intro to Business Studies

A) Finding Books
B) Finding Academic Journal Articles
C) Finding Articles from Magazines, Newspapers, and other sources
D) Citing Sources
E) Evaluating Sources

A) Finding Books

The most efficient way to find books on your topic is to search the Novanet Library Catalogue.Commerce books in the library are mostly located on the 2nd floor, with call numbers starting with the letters HB to HJ. Novanet also contains many ebooks you can access from home. See "How do I search for books?" and related questions on the Library's FAQ page.


On the  Library Homepage select "Novanet" from the Quick Links, or "Novanet Advanced Search"  from the centre of the page.

Change the search scope from "Everything" to "Novanet Catalogue". Your results will include books from all libraries in the Novanet consortium (Nova Scotia academic libraries). You can limit the results to just Mount Allison books or request books from the other member libraries if needed.

To find books on a topic, keyword searching is an easy way to start, but subject searching may also be required.

Keyword Searching: (Searches author, title, table of contents and descriptions where available, subject terms, etc.)

Narrowing a search:  Use AND between two or more keywords to find books that include both terms:
e.g. women AND work

Broadening a search: Use OR to find books with alternate spellings, synonyms, or similar concepts:
e.g. women AND (work OR employment) -- (Note: use parentheses if combining AND & OR in the same search string.)

To search for a phrase (two or more words in that order): Use double quotation marks: e.g., "minimum wage"

Use the truncation symbol: * to get the root word and all endings: e.g. entrepreneur* (gets entrepreneur, entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, etc.)

As you read more on your topic, watch for important books or authors frequently cited and search the library catalogue by author or title to find those.

Use the Advanced Keyword search option if you don't know an exact title, or to search with multiple field types
e.g., Drucker (in Author field) AND management (in Title field)

Once you have found a good book on your topic, click on the title to see the "Details" where you'll see the subject headings applied. You can click on a subject heading to see more books on that subject. Keyword searches can also be limited to the subject field by changing "Any field" to "Subject". Select the "BROWSE" tab at the top of the screen to search for books with an exact subject heading.

If there is no MTA copy of a book you need and you see copies in other Novanet libraries, sign in to Novanet and click "resource sharing" in the book record.


B) Finding Articles from Academic Business Journals 

The highest level academic journals are peer-reviewed. These journals publish articles only after experts in the field have examined and approved the manuscript. Articles in these journals cover original empirical research, or in-depth theoretical or analytical scholarship. Their purpose is to contribute to knowledge in the field. They generally follow a standard format starting with an abstract and literature review, and ending with conclusions and a list of sources cited. Some other business journals with an academic focus or publisher (e.g. Journal of Advertising Research, or Harvard Business Review) may not follow such stringent guidelines or formats and have an editorial board or editors instead of peer review. Academic articles should generally form the core of your sources for a research paper, providing research-based findings or analyses of the topic rather than opinion, anecdotes or sales pitches.

Two of the major business article databases recommended for this course are: Business Source Complete (BSC) and ABI/INFORM Collection. Both cover hundreds of the most important business journals and have similar search options, including the option to limit articles found to scholarly or academic journals:

From the Library Homepage, select the Quick Link:  "A-Z List of Databases"  (NOTE: Novanet can be used to retrieve some articles, but is NOT recommended for article searches. It excludes two major business databases, does not search full text, and does not have some of the search features available in most databases.)

Select subject:  Commerce
Select ABI/INFORM or Business Source Complete


Use the Advanced search screen to see what your search options are.

Use AND between keywords to make sure each keyword is in every record found.
e.g. leadership AND nonprofit

Use OR to get one or the other term (useful for synonyms or alternate spellings)
e.g. women OR female

Use double quotation marks for a phrase (2 or more words together in the same order)
e.g. “social media”

Use * (truncation symbol) to get the root word and all possible endings 
e.g. leader* gets leader, leaders, leadership, etc.

Parentheses are required when using AND and OR in the same search string. (Or use separate rows in Advanced Search.)
e.g. leader* AND (nonprofit OR "not-for-profit") 

Searching all fields, including the full-text of each article ("Anywhere" in ABI and "All Text" in BSC), is generally too broad for finding articles on a topic unless it is very specific. Try searching the "Subject" or "Abstract" fields for a more targeted search.

Each database has a "Search Tips" or (?) symbol linking to more search help.


DO NOT limit results to Full Text documents only!  Where the full text of an article indexed by ABI/INFORM or BSC is not available directly, there is a link provided to the full text in other databases subscribed to by the library. 
Click on the "Find @ MTA" link to see the full text article.

Evaluate the articles you find using the metadata provided: Read the citation and abstract before reading the article. Note the terms used in the abstract, the subject terms assigned, and other clues about how to make your next searches more precise.

Journal Finder:  If you have identified an important article from a reference in a book or other article, you can quickly find out if it is accessible by entering the title into Journal Finder (See Quick Links on the Library homepage.) If links are provided, select the one that includes the issue you need. Some "open access" articles may be found by googling. If an article you need is not available, you can submit an Interlibrary Loan request. Articles are usually emailed to you within 2 or 3 days.

C) Finding Articles from Magazines, Newspapers, Professional and Trade Journals, etc.

In ABI/INFORM, click on the “Change databases” link (top of the screen) and then select "all", or select individual databases you wish to search for other kinds of articles e.g. Canadian Newsstream, for major Canadian newspapers, CBCA for Canadian business and other Canadian content, etc. Selecting "All" will allow you to search thousands of scholarly journals, trade and professional journals, magazines, newspapers, reports, blogs and other sources, covering a wide variety of topics, and including much Canadian content. Selecting "View by Subject" allows you to search all the ProQuest business databases together. Sources found can be limited by type after you enter your search. 

In Business Source Complete you can also limit your search by "Source type", including product reviews, country reports, SWOT analyses, market research reports, industry profiles, etc.

D) Citing Sources

Using others' ideas or words without proper acknowledgement is plagiarism, a serious academic offence. You are expected to credit all sources used for academic work. See the brief guides on avoiding plagiarism under the Research Help tab on the library home page. There are several ways to cite sources. In this course you are required to use the APA citation style. This means using the APA format to cite sources briefly in the text of your paper (author and date), and more fully in the Reference List at the end. There are several brief guides on the library website that help explain how to do this and give examples for different kinds of sources. See for example: “APA Formatting and Style Guide” by the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

In BSC and ProQuest databases, when viewing an article or abstract, you can click on  the “Cite” button to see how the article is  cited in APA format. Select “APA”, check it is accurate, then copy, paste, and include in the email with the full-text article you intend to use or in your essay notes. The citation can later be pasted into your Reference list.

You should have a clear idea of the key elements required in a proper reference for each type of source you use, and make sure to record them while doing the research for your paper rather then at the end. This will save you time and ensure you can find the source again. Key basic elements are: Author, date, article title, and publication/source information (Varies by source, e.g., journal title, volume, page numbers, DOI, URL, etc.) Good APA tip sheets provide examples and explanations.

For citation guides and tip sheets, see the Research Help tab on the library homepage. 

E) Evaluating Sources

Look for the same information you need to cite a source to also evaluate it: 

Author:  Who is the author or authoring organization? There should be information about who the author is (credentials, expertise, affiliation, etc.) usually at the end of an article, or an "About" link for information on an organization's website. If no author is given, look at who is hosting the publication or the site as a whole. (See "Publication / Source Title" below.)

Date:  Look for the date the content was created or last updated (may differ from the website’s date). 

Article Title:  Google searches can lead you to sections within documents or bits of text that are taken out of context. If there is no title, look for links back to the homepage, or back through the URL path to find the document title or context for the information.

Publication / Source Title:  The source in which the information is "published" is an important indicator of the likely reliability of the information. Government bodies like Statistics Canada, or IGOs like the UN, are mandated to collect certain kinds of information and follow stringent quality guidelines. The best academic publications have strict guidelines on how research findings and analyses can be presented, following academic standards for evidence-based, objective and balanced writing. Major publishers,  research institutes, and other organizations who have reputations to uphold, generally strive to publish information in objective and balanced ways. Many non-profit organizations describe their mandate as being research and public education, but if they get the majority of their funding from major corporations or a particular lobby group, that will likely slant the content. (Check the organization's mandate, "About" page, other publications, etc. to get an idea of their biases or intent. Google the organization name to see how others, especially investigative journalists, have described it.) Industry and professional associations are paid to represent their industries and members, and publish information to win over support for their practices or products. The information that corporations make public (annual reports, press releases, etc.) will all present the corporation in the best light. Even the financial reports required of public companies, although required by law to contain certain information, can be misleading. Business analysts, columnists, commentators and others who contribute informational "content" in a variety of sources may be marketing their services rather than providing unbiased, factual information. Although it is often not clearly identified as such, commercial information makes up the majority of the information you are likely to find using an Internet search engine. Looking carefully at the source and purpose of the information is crucial to evaluating its appropriateness for your purposes.

These details about the information (author, date, article or webpage title, publication or website name, volume, issue, page numbers, URL, DOI, etc.) are important for finding the information again and for citing the source if you decide to use it. Note as much as you can find for your own evaluation purposes as well as for use in your Reference List.

Beyond these citation evaluation steps, reading the content critically is also necessary to decide whether the information is reliable and appropriate for your purposes. For more details on critically evaluating content, see the MTA guide Evaluating Web Sources.

For help with your general research questions, please contact a librarian at the Research Help Desk in the library at, call 364-2564, or use the library's online chat service accessible from the library homepage.

For research assistance specific to this and other Commerce courses, please contact Laura Landon, Commerce Librarian, at