Skip Nav

A. Finding Sources

Don't want to cite by hand?

❶Newspaper articles are sometimes in the bound periodicals, but are more often found on microfiche or microfilm. Content on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone—not necessarily an expert or credible author.




Try writing each quote or item that you marked onto an individual note card. That way, you can rearrange and lay out your cards however you would like. Color code your notes to make it easier. Write down a list of all the notes you are using from each individual resource, and then highlight each category of information in a different color.

For example, write everything from a particular book or journal on a single sheet of paper in order to consolidate the notes, and then everything that is related to characters highlight in green, everything related to the plot mark in orange, et cetera. As you go through your notes, mark down the author, page number, title, and publishing information for each resource.

This will come in handy when you craft your bibliography or works cited page later in the game. Identify the goal of the paper. Generally, speaking, there are two types of research paper: Each requires a slightly different focus and writing style which should be identified prior to starting a rough draft.

An argumentative research paper takes a position on a contentious issue and argues for one point of view. The issue should be debatable with a logical counter argument. An analytic research paper offers a fresh look at an important issue. The subject may not be controversial, but you must attempt to persuade your audience that your ideas have merit. This is not simply a regurgitation of ideas from your research, but an offering of your own unique ideas based on what you have learned through research.

Who would be reading this paper, should it be published? Although you want to write for your professor or other superior, it is important that the tone and focus of your paper reflect the audience who will be reading it. The thesis statement is a sentence statement at the beginning of your paper that states the main goal or argument of your paper. Although you can alter the wording of your thesis statement for the final draft later, coming up with the main goal of your essay must be done in the beginning.

All of your body paragraphs and information will revolve around your thesis, so make sure that you are clear on what your thesis is. What is the primary question or hypothesis that you are going to go about proving in your paper? Your thesis should express the main idea of your paper without listing all of your reasons or outline your entire paper. Determine your main points. The body of your essay will revolve around the ideas that you judge to be most important.

Go through your research and annotations to determine what points are the most pivotal in your argument or presentation of information. What ideas can you write whole paragraphs about? Which ideas to you have plenty of firm facts and research to back with evidence? Write your main points down on paper, and then organize the related research under each.

When you outline your main ideas, putting them in a specific order is important. Place your strongest points at the beginning and end of your essay, with more mediocre points placed in the middle or near the end of your essay. Main ideas can be spread out over as many paragraphs as you deem necessary. Depending on your paper rubric, class guidelines, or formatting guidelines, you may have to organize your paper in a specific way.

For example, when writing in APA format you must organize your paper by headings including the introduction, methods, results, and discussion. These guidelines will alter the way you craft your outline and final paper. With the aforementioned tips taken into consideration, organize your entire outline. Justify main points to the left, and indent subsections and notes from your research below each. The outline should be an overview of your entire paper in bullet points.

Write your body paragraphs. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, writing your introduction first may be more difficult to accomplish than starting with the meat of your paper. Starting by writing the main points focusing on supporting your thesis allows you to slightly change and manipulate your ideas and commentary. Support every statement you make with evidence.

Supply ample explanations for your research. The opposite of stating opinions without facts is stating facts with no commentary. Although you certainly want to present plenty of evidence, make sure that your paper is uniquely your own by adding commentary in whenever possible. Avoid using many long, direct quotes. Although your paper is based on research, the point is for you to present your own ideas. Unless the quote you intend on using is absolutely necessary, try paraphrasing and analyzing it in your own words instead.

Use clear segues into adjacent points in your paper. Your essay should flow well, rather than stopping and starting in a blunt fashion. Make sure that each of your body paragraphs flows nicely into the one after it. Now that you have carefully worked through your evidence, write a conclusion that briefly summarizes your findings for the reader and provides a sense of closure.

Start by briefly restating the thesis statement, then remind the reader of the points you covered over the course of the paper. Slowly zoom out of the topic as you write, ending on a broad note by emphasizing the larger implication of your findings. First of all, the conclusion is easier to write when the evidence is still fresh in your mind. The introduction is, in many respects, the conclusion written in reverse: Avoid repeating exact phrases that you already used in the conclusion. All research essays must be documented in certain ways in order to avoid plagiarism.

Depending on the topic of your research and your field of study, you will have to use different styles of formatting. MLA, APA, and Chicago are the three most common citation formats and determine the way in-text citations or footnotes should be used, as well as the order of information in your paper.

This format requires in-text citations. APA format is used by researchers in the social sciences field, and requires in-text citations as well. Chicago formatting is used mainly for historical research papers and uses footnotes at the bottom of each page rather than in-text citations and works cited or references page. Edit your rough draft. Although it is tempting to simply read over your essay and use the spell-check tool, editing your paper should be a bit more in-depth.

Have them edit for basic grammatical and spelling errors as well as the persuasiveness of your essay and the flow and form of your paper. If you edit your own paper, wait at least three days before returning to it. Studies show that your writing is still fresh in your mind for days after finishing, and so you are more likely to skim over basic mistakes that you would otherwise catch.

If they suggest that you rewrite a section of your paper, there is probably a valid reason for their request. Take the time to edit your paper thoroughly. Create the final draft. When you have edited and re-edited your paper, formatted your work according to the subject matter, and finalized all the main points, you are ready to create the final draft. Go through your paper and fix all mistakes, rearranging information if necessary.

Adjust the font, line spacing, and margins to meet the requirements set by your professor or profession. If necessary, create an introduction page and a works cited or references page to bookend your paper. The completion of these tasks finalizes your paper! Make sure to save the paper in multiple places, for extra security and print out your final draft.

Sample Environmental Research Paper. Sample Research Paper Outline. Does making a research paper require me to invent something new or it is just about gathering information? It can be for the both, whether you invent something new to implement or you gather some sort of data based valuable information and synthesize it. Not Helpful 11 Helpful The introduction should set out what you intend to discuss and prove in the research paper, and outline the approaches per topic or heading section.

It is also nice to open the topic and lead into it in an interesting way that helps the reader to want to read on. Not Helpful 18 Helpful To be honest there is no rule book or a set of formulas which will give you the best or better topic. Once you have a number of topics in hand you need to evaluate as to which topic interests you and your audience more. Not Helpful 10 Helpful See Make a Questionnaire for the method needed. Not Helpful 15 Helpful You can publish a research paper through established journals or you can use open source online publishing sites, such as SSRN or Researchgate.

If your research paper is long enough, you could also publish it as a small book or an ebook, and disseminate it via book sales sites and stores. Not Helpful 16 Helpful If you are numbering the pages, then yes, the second and third pages should be numbered.

Some, though not all, of these sources are now in electronic format, and may be accessible outside of the library using a computer. Primary sources are original, first-hand documents such as creative works, research studies, diaries and letters, or interviews you conduct. Secondary sources are comments about primary sources such as analyses of creative work or original research, or historical interpretations of diaries and letters. You can use a combination of primary and secondary sources to answer your research question, depending on the question and the type of sources it requires.

If you're writing a paper on the reasons for a certain personality disorder, you may read an account written by a person with that personality disorder, a case study by a psychiatrist, and a textbook that summarizes a number of case studies.

The first-hand account and the psychiatrist's case study are primary sources, written by people who have directly experienced or observed the situation themselves. The textbook is a secondary source, one step removed from the original experience or observation.

For example, if you asked what the sea symbolized in Hemingway's story "The Old Man and the Sea," you'd need to consult the story as a primary source and critics' interpretations of the story as a secondary source.

An on-line catalog has replaced card catalogs in many libraries as a means of listing and indexing what is in the library.

You use an on-line catalog the same way you use a card catalog: So don't feel intimidated if you haven't yet searched on-line; anyway, the directions are right on the screen. Most of the searches that you do for a research paper will be subject searches, unless you already know enough about the field to know some standard sources by author or title. When using an on-line catalog or a card catalog, make sure to jot down the source's name, title, place of publication, publication date, and any other relevant bibliographic information that you will need later on if you choose to use the source in your research paper.

Also remember to record the call number, which is the number you use to find the item in the library. Magazines are written for the general public, so they contain articles that do not present a subject in depth. Journals are written by and for professionals in various fields and will provide you with in-depth, specific information.

Your professors will expect you to use some journals; in fact, the more advanced your courses are, the more you should be using journal articles in your research as opposed to magazine articles.

How do you find articles to answer your research question? It's inefficient to go through volumes of magazines and journals, even if you could think of appropriate ones. Most magazine and journal articles are referenced in either an index or an abstract.

An index lists magazine or journal articles by subject. Find the correct subject heading or keyword to search for articles. Write down all the information for each article. Check the index's abbreviation key if you can't understand the abbreviations in the entry. Make sure to write down all of the entry's information so you can find the article IF your library carries the magazine or journal. If not, you can use the information to request the article through interlibrary loan.

Specific indices the "correct" plural of index exist for journals in just about every field of study Business Index, Social Science Index, General Science Index, Education Index, and many more , while there's only one major index to general interest magazines The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature.

Many libraries have many of these indices on their on-line systems; check with the reference librarian if you have a question about indices available on-line.

An abstract is like an index with a brief description of the article's content added. You'll soon see that it's great to be researching in a field that has an abstract, since this short explanation can help you make an early decision about the relevance of the article to your research question or working thesis.

A bound, printed abstract takes two steps to use. The first step is the same--find the appropriate subject heading in the index portion and write down all of the information in the entry. Note that the entry will also include a number or some kind of an identifying code. Then use the number or code in the "abstracts" portion to find a description of the type of information that's in the article.

Again, if an article seems appropriate, write down all of the entry information so you can find the article in your library or through interlibrary loan and so you'll have the information for your works cited or references list at the end of your paper. The most commonly used index to newspaper articles is the New York Times Index, organized alphabetically by subject. Find the appropriate subject heading and jot down the information so you can find the article, which is usually on microfilm, unless you're dealing with a very recent issue of the Times.

Your local newspaper also may publish an index, which may be useful if you are researching local history or politics. Encyclopedias provide background information about a subject. Note that you should confine your use of encyclopedias to background information only, since their information is too general to function as an appropriate source for a college paper.

Specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries provide background in specific fields e. Facts on File and Statistical Abstracts provide brief bits of statistical information that can aid your research.

For example, if you're doing on a paper on airline safety since deregulation, it's a safe bet that you can find statistics on airline safety problems in one of these reference books. Other reference books abound e. Take time, at some point, to browse your library's shelves in the reference section to see how many different types of reference books exist and to consider how you may use them.

It will be time well spent. The Library of Congress provides an indexing system; most academic libraries index their books using Library of Congress subject headings. The Library of Congress publishes a Subject Heading Index listing all of the subject headings that they use. Why bother knowing this information? The Subject Heading Index is a good tool for you as a researcher.

If you're not getting exactly the right books you need through your on-line subject search, check this index to find the appropriate subject heading to use. If you are finding too much information, check this index to see at a glance all of the various headings and sub-headings for the subject.

You can get an idea of how to narrow down and focus your subject simply by scanning these various headings and sub-headings.

Just note that these subject headings relate to books only. Magazine and journal indexes and abstracts will use their own subject headings but the Library of Congress headings can at least give you an idea of the types of headings to use.

The important thing to remember here is that, by the time a book is printed, the information is at least a couple of years old. So if you're doing research that requires very recent information, a newspaper, magazine, or journal is your best bet. If currency is not an issue and it's not, in many cases , then a book's fuller treatment of a subject is a good choice.

It's also useful to move from virtual cyberspace into actual, physical space and "real time" when you search for books. That means that you should get yourself into the library. Sometimes a look through the stacks the shelves on which the books are located will turn up additional information that's relevant to your research question or working thesis.

The Internet provides access to a lot of information. The ESC Library provides access to a number of useful databases on a wide variety of topics. The Internet provides access to many on-line catalogs so you can review the types of books available in the field and carried by that particular library. The Internet also provides access to a few full-text electronic journals which means that you can read and print the article right from the screen.

The Internet can link you up with individuals who might have expertise on the topic you are researching. You can find these people by joining electronic discussion groups newsgroups or maillists. These forums are usually categorized by topic e. By posting a question to the group or maillist, you can obtain useful information from knowledgeable people willing to share their expertise. The one big problem with the Internet is that you sometimes need to sift.

You also have to be critical of what you find, since anyone can post and even change anything that's out there in cyberspace, and you won't necessarily know if someone answering your query is really an expert in the field.

But if you persevere, and even if you just play around with it, the Internet can offer some gems of information in a quick, easy way. Don't underestimate the power of interviewing knowledgeable people as part of your research. For example, if you're researching a topic in local history, consult the town historian or a local resident who experienced what you're researching.

People who have "been there" and "done that" can add a real richness to your research. Who better than a former Olympic athlete to provide information about the emotional effects of athletic competition? You can consult knowledgeable people in print as well. If you find one or two names that keep popping up in your research if others consistently refer to these names and list works by these people in their bibliographies , then you should consult sources by these people, since it's likely that they are considered experts in the field which you are researching.

If your library doesn't carry the book or journal article that you need, you probably can get that source through interlibrary loan. The one catch is that it may take weeks' time to get the source from another library. Starting your research early will assure that you have time to get the sources that you want to consult.

One big tip for using interlibrary loan: So get in the habit of writing all of the information down as you compile your list of sources. For books, write down the author, title, publisher, place, and date of publication.

For articles, write down the article title, journal title, author, volume, date, span of page numbers, and the name, year, and page number of the reference source in which you found the article listed. The library needs this information to order your source. One big tip for working with a reference librarian: The librarian will immediately be able to suggest a number of places to look if you tell him that your research question is "Why is smoking being banned in public places?

Background Gathering sources is much more complex than it used to be. Your primary places for locating sources will be: The library Other computer sources CDRoms, etc. The library If you go to the library, you will find that the old card catalog, which only lists books, has been replaced by a computer in most libraries. Is the book or article biased in a particular way? For instance, is the book or article written by a person who is a member of a particular religious group, or a particular environmental group, for example, which would "color" their interpretation?

Does the author agree or disagree with my thesis? Is the information presented accurately, to the best of your knowledge? Periodicals Magazines including Time or Newsweek are called periodicals as they are published periodically weekly, monthly, etc. Other computer resources CDROM, specialized databases etc Many libraries today, especially if they are larger libraries, have information available on CDROM or through what are called specialized databases.

Taking notes, paraphrasing, and quoting Taking notes is an important part of doing research. What do I take notes on? You should take notes on ideas and concepts that you think are important to include in your paper. You also can include supporting examples that you think would be helpful to refer to. You should NOT write the words down exactly as they appear on the page, unless you are putting them in quotations.

Otherwise, you might accidentally write them into your paper that way, and that would be plagiarism. Be sure to write down the page number that you are working from in case you want to refer back to it. Click here to learn more about Taking Notes.

Using quotes, or What if I want the exact words? If you come across a passage in your reading and it seems to you that the author's language is more accurate, more touching, or more informative than you could create, then you should write that sentence down exactly as you see it, with quotation marks around the sentence s. You must be very careful to record the page number that this information is from, because you will need to include it in your paper.

Quotes should not be used terribly often--if your paper is nothing more than a series of quotes strung together and yes, we have all written those! Click here to see an example and to work more with using quotations. What about summarizing and paraphrasing? Summarizing and paraphrasing are similar to quoting in that you are recording the author's ideas. However, when you are summarize or paraphrase, you record ideas as opposed to exact language; the language is yours.

Once again, be sure to jot down the page number--you will need it later. Any time you summarize or paraphrase, you MUST acknowledge the source of your information.


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Using sources to support your ideas is one characteristic of the research paper that sets it apart from personal and creative writing. Sources come in many forms, such as magazine and journal articles, books, newspapers, videos, films, computer discussion groups, surveys, or interviews.

Privacy FAQs

The experts at Elite Editing show you where to find credible sources for your research paper. Finding credible sources online explained.

About Our Ads

A. Finding Sources. SUMMARY. Another reason why Wikipedia should not be cited in an academic research paper is that it aims to be like an encyclopedia–a source of reference information, not scholarly research or primary or secondary sources. One must delineate between general reference for general knowledge and scholarly sources for in. Sep 27,  · To write a research paper, start by researching your topic at the library, online, or using an academic database. Once you've found at least 5 reputable sources, outline the information you've learned through your research%().

Cookie Info

Writing a research paper is a crash course in the stylistic conventions of scholarly writing. During the research and writing process, you'll learn how to document your research, how to cite sources appropriately, how to format an academic paper, how to maintain an academic tone, and more.