All Research Guides

Ethics Guide

Subject Librarian

Cecile Farnum Cecile Farnum
(416) 979-5000 x4093


For brief, factual information to get you started with a topic, you may wish to use one of the following encyclopedias.  Some are accessible in print, and some are accessible as ebooks online.  If you are accessing ebooks from off-campus, you'll have to login with your my.ryerson account.

The Library has a large collection of books that are housed on floors 6-10.  They are organized according to the Library of Congress' classification system.  Books relating to Ethics are in call number range BJ 1-1725, although relevant books may be found in other areas as well.  To browse this section, visit the Library's 6th floor.  Students are advised to search the Library catalogue or use Search Everything to locate relevant books.

The Library is also investing heavily in ebooks, which are accessible through the Library catalogue, or Search Everything.  eBooks are accessible from off campus, and can be viewed online from a computer with Internet access.

When looking for journal articles, students are encouraged to use Search Everything, the main search interface on the Library's website.  This tool searches the majority of the Library's collection with a single search, and includes both print and digital resources. Given the interdisciplinary nature of Ethics, searching a range of subject databases, rather than limiting to those relevant to one particular area, will yield a wider depth of relevant search results. 

For example, to conduct research in a course on Business Ethics, one might logically want to search only databases relating to Business.  However, articles on the same topic may be found in databases relevant to Philosophy, and in other disciplines as well.  Instead of duplicating a search in a number of databases, a single search in Search Everything would be appropriate.

If students do wish to engage in discipline-specific research, please consult the appropriate subject research guide for further suggestions.  Consider your topic, and what subject areas might be most relevant.  For example, to conduct research in Business Ethics, you may also want to consult resources specific to Business Management.  Similarly, for the topic of Bioethics, databases in the Sciences may also be useful.

Results can be refined and tailored to suit the needs of a particular search, such as limiting to peer reviewed articles only, or to a range of years of publication.

The range of journals the Library subscribes to includes scholarly journals, trade publications, popular magazines and newsletters. Many scholarly journals are peer reviewed, and your instructors will expect you to be able to find this kind of information for your research papers.

What is Peer Review?

Peer review is the process through which experts in a field of study such as occupational health and safety assess the quality of articles that are submitted to a journal for publication. They differ from non-scholarly sources, which do not require this level of assessment and review prior to publication.

A number of databases to which the Library subscribes provide limits which will isolate peer reviewed articles from other kinds of articles. 

You can also determine which journals are peer reviewed by consulting the electronic versions of the Ulrich's Periodical Directory or the Serials Directory. The full record for any journal listed in these directories indicates if it is peer reviewed.

The information provided at the following web sites will also assist you in distinguishing between the various types of periodicals and in evaluating their contents.

Boolean Searching

Introduction to Boolean "operators"

When searching a database, first think of keywords that best describe your topic. Then combine these keywords using Boolean "operators" to broaden or narrow your search.

The Boolean operators are:




They determine how the computer searches for your keywords, and what information is returned to you.


The "and" operator tells the computer to search the database for every entry or record that has each of the words somewhere in the same entry or record. For example, if you want information on education in Ontario, you might search the appropriate source in this way:

Ontario and education

Venn Diagram of a boolean AND search

As illustrated in the above diagram, the computer goes through its database and first retrieves every record it finds with the word Ontario and every record with the word education. It then combines the searches, and gives you only the records in which both words appear somewhere in the same record. This is a way of narrowing a search and making it very specific.


The "or" operator tells the computer to search the database for every record which has any of the words specified. Both words do not have to occur in the same record. For example, if you want information on either stress or anxiety, you might search the appropriate source in this way:

stress or anxiety

Venn Diagram of a Boolean OR search

As the above diagram illustrates, the computer then goes through the database and retrieves every record with stress, and every record with anxiety. This results in a very broad search.


The "not" operator allows you to remove a word from your search. It tells the computer to search for every record with your first word, and remove any record which also contains your second word. For example, if you wanted information about sleep, but not sleep apnea, you might search the appropriate source in this way:

sleep not apnea

Venn Diagram of a Boolean NOT Search

As the above diagram illustrates, the computer goes through the database and retrieves every record with the word sleep. It then removes any of these records which also contains the word apnea, and gives you only those records with sleep, not sleep apnea. The not connector thus narrows your search.

Please note that Scholars Portal hosting of RefWorks will be discontinued August 15, 2015. Ryerson faculty, students and staff will no longer have access to their RefWorks accounts after this date. Ryerson University Library has created a list of citation management alternatives and is encouraging users to begin the process of exporting references from RefWorks into another software tool. Learn more about how to migrate your references and citations from RefWorks to Mendeley, Zotero or Endnote Web. You also have the option of purchasing an individual subscription to RefWorks.

RefWorks Help

Is your question a frequently asked questions? View FAQ. If you need help with using RefWorks, please contact the reference desk, your subject librarian or email refworks.support@scholarsportal.info.

Evaluating Sources

What are Scholarly (Peer Reviewed or Refereed) Journals?

Evaluating Internet Resources


Cite Your Sources and Use A Standard Format For Your Bibliography

It is important to cite all your sources and use a standard format for your bibliography.

Format the citations in your bibliography using examples from sources such as the Modern Language Association (MLA) or American Psychological Association (APA) standards. These are available on the Web. For more information, check out the Library's Citations and Style Guides link.

Handouts of these formats are also available from the Writing Centre or in print in the Ryerson Library book collection. These are also available on the Web: Modern Language Association (MLA) or the American Psychological Association (APA) Standards via the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing 3rd ed. (PN147 .G444 2008)

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 6th ed. (BF76.7 .P82 2009)

© 2021 Ryerson University Library & Archives Research Guides