A: Getting Started
An excellent starting point for your research is the Drain-Jordan Library. Whether you come into the library to use print resources such as general or specialized encyclopedias or you begin your search online through the library's databases, you can rest assured that the library resources are credible and valid. Now let's get started.
A-1: Topic Selection and Basic Information
The majority of your research will be dictated by class assignments.
- Do you need to present a pro and con paper on a controversial subject such as gun control?
- Do you need to elaborate on a subject and then draw your educated conclusions on a subject like global warming?
- Sometimes you'll need to explain a technical idea clearly such as explaining how to develop a simple computer program.
Whatever type of paper (assignment) is required, you will need a topic
MAKE SURE YOU SELECT A TOPIC THAT APPEALS TO YOU!
By selecting a topic that appeals to you, the assignment becomes more meaningful and engaging. If it is a stimulating topic for you it becomes less dull and retains your interest.
After topic selection you will probably need to develop a thesis statement. A thesis statement
is an idea or concept your're trying to prove.
For example, the topic is gun control
But a thesis statement related to gun control could be "Lack of gun control results in increased murder rates in the United States
At this point you should be ready to begin some basic research. For an overview of your chosen topic you may want to check for library books and/or ebooks. Visit the main library page (www.wvstateu.edu/library) and select Library Catalog. Searching the Library Catalog will retrieve both print and electronic (e)books. The Reference Department (1st floor of the library) has general and specialized encyclopedias which can also help you get started.
What is a citation?
- A "citation" is the way you tell your readers that certain material in your work came from another source. It also gives your readers the information necessary to find that source again, including:
- information about the author,
- the title of the work
- the name and location of the company that published your copy of the source
- the date your copy was published
- the page numbers of the material you are borrowing
Why should I cite sources?
- Giving credit to the original author by citing sources is the only way to use other people's work without plagiarizing. But there are a number of other reasons to cite sources:
- citations are extremely helpful to anyone who wants to find out more about your ideas and where they came from.
- not all sources are good or right -- your own ideas may often be more accurate or interesting than those of your sources. Proper citation will keep you from taking the rap for someone else's bad ideas.
- citing sources shows the amount of research you've done.
- citing sources strengthens your work by lending outside support to your ideas.
Doesn't citing sources make my work seem less original?
Not at all. On the contrary, citing sources actually helps your reader distinguish your ideas from those of your sources. This will actually emphasize the originality of your own work.
When do I need to cite?
- Whenever you borrow words or ideas, you need to acknowledge their source. The following situations almost always require citation:
- whenever you use quotes
- whenever you paraphrase
- whenever you use an idea that someone else has already expressed
- whenever you make specific reference to the work of another
- whenever someone else's work has been critical in developing your own ideas.
How do I cite sources?
This depends on what type of work you are writing, how you are using the borrowed material, and the expectations of your instructor.
First, you have to think about how you want to identify your sources. If your sources are very important to your ideas, you should mention the author and work in a sentence that introduces your citation. If, however, you are only citing the source to make a minor point, you may consider using parenthetical references, footnotes, or endnotes.
There are also different forms of citation for different disciplines. For example, when you cite sources in a psychology paper you would probably use a different form of citation than you might in a paper for an English class.
Finally, you should always consult your instructor to determine the form of citation appropriate for your paper. You can save a lot of time and energy simply by asking "How should I cite my sources," or "What style of citation should I use?" before you begin writing.
CITING YOUR SOURCES
To properly cite a source, most styles have two necessary components: the in-text citation which corresponds to a specific source in the bibliography or works cited page.
Follow the guidelines in the citation manuals carefully to understand how to cite sources in the text of your paper as well as how to cite them at the end of your paper in a listed bibliography (also called a "works cited" list or "references").
Additional citation information:
- The Purdue Owl Writing Center website has excellent, in depth instructions regarding formatting citation.
- The WVSU Library keeps the most up to date APA (American Psychological Association) and the MLA (Modern Language Association) style manuals at the reference desk which is located in the 1st floor lobby area near the computers. Just ask a librarian for these.
- MLA 8th ed. info: pdf version; docx version
- Free 7th ed. MLA tutorial provided by the Hunter College Reading/Writing Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. http://library.hunter.cuny.edu/tutorials/mla/mla_tutorial.html
- Free APA tutorial provided by the Hunter College Reading/Writing Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). http://library.hunter.cuny.edu/tutorials/apa/
- The WVSU Writing Center is located on the second floor of the library. Tutors are available to assist with writing/research assignments.
Identifying Sources in the Body of Your Paper
The first time you cite a source, it is almost always a good idea to mention its author(s), title, and genre (book, article, or web page, etc.). If the source is central to your work, you may want to introduce it in a separate sentence or two, summarizing its importance and main ideas. But often you can just tag this information onto the beginning or end of a sentence. For example, the following sentence puts information about the author and work before the quotation:
Milan Kundera, in his book The Art of the Novel, suggests that "if the novel should really disappear, it will do so not because it has exhausted its powers but because it exists in a world grown alien to it."
You may also want to describe the author(s) if they are not famous, or if you have reason to believe your reader does not know them. You should say whether they are economic analysts, artists, physicists, etc. If you do not know anything about the author, and cannot find any information, it is best to say where you found the source and why you believe it is credible and worth citing. For example,
In an essay presented at an Asian Studies conference held at Duke University, Sheldon Geron analyzes the relation of state, labor-unions, and small businesses in Japan between 1950s and 1980s.
If you have already introduced the author and work from which you are citing, and you are obviously referring to the same work, you probably don't need to mention them again. However, if you have cited other sources and then go back to one you had cited earlier, it is a good idea to mention at least the author's name again (and the work if you have referred to more than one by this author) to avoid confusion.
What's a Bibliography?
A bibliography is a list of all of the sources you have used in the process of researching your work. In general, a bibliography should include:
- the authors' names
- the titles of the works
- the names and locations of the companies that published your copies of the sources
- the dates your copies were published
- the page numbers of your sources (if they are part of multi-source volumes)
Ok, so what's an Annotated Bibliography?
An annotated bibliography is the same as a bibliography with one important difference: in an annotated bibliography, the bibliographic information is followed by a brief description of the content, quality, and usefulness of the source.
What are Footnotes?
Footnotes are notes placed at the bottom of a page. They cite references or comment on a designated part of the text above it. For example, say you want to add an interesting comment to a sentence you have written, but the comment is not directly related to the argument of your paragraph. In this case, you could add the symbol for a footnote. Then, at the bottom of the page you could reprint the symbol and insert your comment. Here is an example: This is an illustration of a footnote.,1 The number "1" at the end of the previous sentence corresponds with the note below. See how it fits in the body of the text?
1 At the bottom of the page you can insert your comments about the sentence preceding the footnote.
When your reader comes across the footnote in the main text of your paper, he or she could look down at your comments right away, or else continue reading the paragraph and read your comments at the end. Because this makes it convenient for your reader, most citation styles require that you use either footnotes or endnotes in your paper. Some, however, allow you to make parenthetical references (author, date) in the body of your work. See our section on citation styles for more information.
Footnotes are not just for interesting comments, however. Sometimes they simply refer to relevant sources -- they let your reader know where certain material came from, or where they can look for other sources on the subject. To decide whether you should cite your sources in footnotes or in the body of your paper, you should ask your instructor or see our section on citation styles.
Where does the little footnote mark go?
Whenever possible, put the footnote at the end of a sentence, immediately following the period or whatever punctuation mark completes that sentence. Skip two spaces after the footnote before you begin the next sentence. If you must include the footnote in the middle of a sentence for the sake of clarity, or because the sentence has more than one footnote (try to avoid this!), try to put it at the end of the most relevant phrase, after a comma or other punctuation mark. Otherwise, put it right at the end of the most relevant word. If the footnote is not at the end of a sentence, skip only one space after it.
What's the difference between Footnotes and Endnotes?
The only real difference is placement -- footnotes appear at the bottom of the relevant page, while endnotes all appear at the end of your document. If you want your reader to read your notes right away, footnotes are more likely to get your reader's attention. Endnotes, on the other hand, are less intrusive and will not interrupt the flow of your paper.
If I cite sources in the Footnotes (or Endnotes), how's that different from a Bibliography?
Sometimes you may be asked to include these -- especially if you have used a parenthetical style of citation. A "works cited" page is a list of all the works from which you have borrowed material. Your reader may find this more convenient than footnotes or endnotes because he or she will not have to wade through all of the comments and other information in order to see the sources from which you drew your material. A "works consulted" page is a complement to a "works cited" page, listing all of the works you used, whether they were useful or not.
Isn't a "works consulted" page the same as a "bibliography," then?
Well, yes. The title is different because "works consulted" pages are meant to complement "works cited" pages, and bibliographies may list other relevant sources in addition to those mentioned in footnotes or endnotes. Choosing to title your bibliography "Works Consulted" or "Selected Bibliography" may help specify the relevance of the sources listed.