Scholarly research requires that your support and evidence come from professionally
edited, refereed (also called peer-reviewed) sources whether
online, in print, or in multimedia. Specialists in the subject matter
have written, selected, and edited the information in refereed sources; therefore they are more reliable and more credible than works you locate that have not been refereed by specialists.
Investigating a Topic
Keeping Accurate Records for Documenting Sources
- Scrupulous recordkeeping is essential for a developing a research project. Become familiar with and committed to your obligations for Academic Integrity so that you can receive credit for your own work at the same time you credit others appropriately for theirs.
- As soon as you begin the project, keep careful records of all sources consulted and recommended, including authors, titles, publishers, dates, and page numbers.
- Develop your working bibliography, which is a list of sources that sound promising whether or not you ever actually locate or use them. Your final bibliography listing includes only the sources you actually reference (cite) in your paper and will be headed Works Cited.
- Taking notes on all the necessary information as you conduct your research will help you document accurately and save you time later. A system of Note Cards as described in most college research writing guides and handbooks remains one of the most efficient methods for keeping track of potentially useful information as you conduct research. Technological alternatives include typing your notes into a computer database or word processor or using one of the special software programs for scholarly research records.
- Be sure full information about the source accompanies any notes you take.
- You must be faithful to the meaning and context of the original source so that you do not distort the intention or significance of the original.
- In your notes as in your final paper, use summary, paraphrase, quotation, and combinations correctly. See your textbook or Selected Glossary for Academic Research for definitions of these important concepts.
- When you do quote, be sure to quote accurately. Place clearly in double quotation marks the entire section quoted and place in single quotation marks any internal quotations. Remember that these marks are the only way you'll know whether the information in your notes is a direct quotation. If you are quoting material that covers more than a single page, use a slash / mark to signal to yourself the page change, just in case your paper uses only a portion of the quotation. See the sample at Note Cards.
- Copy all information and punctuation and capitalization exactly as they appear in the source, including any errors. Identify any errors with [square brackets]. If the error is a fairly obvious spelling error, simply place [sic] after the term. If you feel it appropriate to write the correct information or, in some cases, to insert a commentcalled an interpolationuse [square brackets to distinguish your remark from the author's words.
- If you feel it necessary to quote portions of the original, leaving out words and phrases, use ellipsis points/marks to signal omissions. Ellipsis points are not usually necessary for omissions at the beginnings of sentences or for obvious short phrases. Consult a handbook for correct use of ellipsis points.
- Become familiar with the required documentation standards (MLA for our class but you might be asked to use another type for another class) so you'll know what kinds of information you'll be expected to document in your Works Cited listing, where you will be required to list vital information about sources.
Because online resources are not always
present when you return to them, print just the
top page of any Website you think you might use. Be sure
you have set your page and print preferences of your Web
browser to print the Web address (URL) and printout date
so you'll have a record..
Double check that the complete Web
address (URL) and date are included on the printout;
write them in clearly if they are missing. You should
also print other pages from which you are likely to
cite information, but please don't print more pages
than you need to. This way you have a record of the
existence of the site and can return to double-check
the accuracy of your quotations and paraphrases.
Make a photocopy of any book
or article pages you might cite in your paper, and
circle the passages you actually use. Be sure to write
on each page which source it came from and be sure
the page number is visible or written in. That way
you can return to double-check the accuracy of your
quotations and paraphrases.
Critical evaluation of all potential sources is
an important part of the research process. Unreliable resources
undermine your points and cast doubt on your own credibility
as a writer and thinker. Seek material that is up-to-date, authors
and investigators whose credentials are appropriate and reliable,
and publishers whose reputations indicate fairness and accuracy.
The following suggestions supplement those in your textbook and
Books and Periodicals
- Journal articles and books from academic presses are
the most reliable and authoritative resources. Your textbook,
recent guides to the academic research process, and online information
on evaluating Websites will help you determine appropriateness
of such resources. If you are unsure about the acceptability
of a source you are considering, consult a librarian or your
teacher. You an usually rely on the following sources:
- Refereed (also called peer-reviewed or vetted)
academic journals or professional periodicals such as the Journal
of the American Medical Association rather than general
magazines like Prevention
- Books and essays in refereed edited collections published
by university presses or by other acceptable publishers of
- Audiotapes, videotapes, broadcasts, CDs, and DVDs produced
by experts in their fields
- Other sources if credible, current, reliable, and approved
in advance by your teacher
Web Resources and Online Databases
Web resources require special attention
anybody can publish Web pages. Therefore, do not depend
on general search engines such as google or yahoo to locate sources
that would be considered acceptable for academic research projects.
Using our college online databases will help you find appropriate
- Among the acceptable Web resources are the following:
- refereed online journals from a college
or university or academic association such as the Modern
Language Association or American Psychological Association
- scholarly articles by textbook authors placed online
at a publisher's Website
- refereed print journals digitized for the Web (usually
accessible only through a college library site with password-protected
- online archives and resource lists prepared and maintained
by academic institutions or specialists, for example, Voice
of the Shuttle or Valley of the Shadow
To determine whether a Website is hosted by
a college or university or educational organization, move backwards
through the Web address
until you reach the institution's
homepage. Most accredited academic Websites have as their root an address that ends .edu
such as http://www.clemson.edu
. Others may be related to an academic site, as mine is. For example, move backwards through my Documentation Guide Website http://wordsworth2.net/writing/documentation.htm,
eliminating and visiting each Web segment back to the / slash
mark one section at a time: first to http://wordsworth2.net/writing
, and eventually you will reach my homepage http://wordsworth2.net
. From that site, you will find links to my academic and professional sites.
The following sources usually are usually not
acceptable for academic research projects:
most general encyclopedias and some specialized encyclopedias
summary books like the Magill series,
Masterplots, and Cliffs and Spark Notes in print and online
papers composed by other undergraduate
and master's degree students
because students are novice scholars learning to be expert
scholars and do not yet have credentials or refereed publications
magazines except when assigned or approved by your teacher
- On the other hand, you may find some of these "unacceptable" sources are valuable to stimulate
your thinking and provide general background
information that will help you narrow your topic. You can
use the bibliographies and Works Cited listings from
these sources to help you identify acceptable sources that
they used and that you can use too.
Occasionally, these "unacceptable"
sources can be used in addition to required scholarly
sources. If you ever are in doubt about the acceptability
of a source, check with a librarian and your teacher.
Become familiar with and committed to your obligations for Academic Integrity so that you can receive credit for your own work at the same time you credit others appropriately for theirs.
These suggestions were developed in collaboration with Beverly Hills
of the Tidewater Community College Learning Resources Centers.
for educational purposes only
developed and copyright ©1998 by D. Reiss
modified and copyright ©28 February 2005 by D. Reiss