Help With Research & Citations

What is research? Why do we do it? The great astronaut, Neil Armstrong, once said, "In much of society, research means to investigate something you do not know or understand." Learning how to research, among other things, increases critical thinking, helps to prepare you for higher education and the workforce, and drastically improves the overall quality of your work (and your grades!).

So where to begin? Your school's librarian and library's website are always the best place to start because they have been specifically crafted to fit your needs, but school libraries are not open 24 hours a day.


How to Research

There are thousands of specific strategies for how to conduct and write various types of research papers. However, it is widely believed that there are only a handful of paths our brains generally take us when taking on an assignment. Try these step-by-step guides if you are stuck at the beginning, middle or end:
CRLS Research Guide- Basic Steps in the Research Process
ipl2 for Teens- A+ Research & Writing: Step by Step
Kentucky Virtual Library- How to Do Research
Duke University Libraries- Research Guide


Evaluating Your Sources

Not everything we find in print and electronic format are appropriate sources of information. Three examples to illustrate this point:

1.) Inappropriate Types of Sources
If you were writing a paper about Mount Kilimanjaro, you would not cite an article about pitcher R. A. Dickey's recent expedition in Sports Illustrated.
2.) Obsolete Information
A book published in 1951 entitled Modern China cannot possibly help you gain insight as to what China is like in the 21st century.
3.) Misleading or Amateur Authors
Some people think they are experts when in reality they are not qualified to publish certain materials. Other people purposely publish misleading and/or false information in the name of a political or other personal motivation. A funny example can be found here. But Michael Scott might put it best.

How do we avoid using these improper sources? Train yourself to question everything you read, view and hear. Try exploring any of these links to see why and how you should be critical:
Purdue University Online Writing Lab- Evaluating Sources: Overview
University of California Berkeley Library- Critical Evaluation of Resources
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center- Evaluating Print Sources
Cornell University Library- Critically Analyzing Information Sources
University of Georgia Online Library Learning Center- Unit 9: Evaluating Sources


Citing Your Sources

Citing your sources or references is of the utmost importance- how else can you prove that the information you are using is true? The two main styles of citation used in schools are MLA and APA format. Typically, every school district only uses one of these two styles. Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL) provides a wealth of information about both APA and MLA formatting:
APA Formatting and Style Guide
MLA Formatting and Style Guide
MLA Citation Basics, 7th Edition (.pdf)

Still a little confused about where that comma goes or what needs to be capitalized? Enlist the aid of these free online citation generators:
Son of a Citation Machine