Research paper


    I. Define the Subject

    a) If your topic is not assigned, start exploring class discussions or click here for prompts.

    b) Research as inquiry: Explore topic areas and start formulating questions.

    • Once you define your subject, learn more about it, gather keywords, take notes using facts to gain knowledge. Getting background information and prior knowledge will also help you in further refining your topics. 
    • You can begin your research with an online encyclopedia such as Grolier and Britannica (General databases), both of which provide background information, keywords, links to other sources, and subtopics. 

     II. Read other opinions about your subject

    •  For a book report, you may read a literature review to broaden your perspective. Databases such as Gale, Opposing Viewpoints offer articles writen by specialists on your topic.

     III. Narrowing the Topic

    • If your topic is too broad or vague you will find too much information and will need to narrow the focus. Example: I'm thinking of doing a paper on "fashion." This topic could develop in many different ways and can be split into sub-topics instead.

    Ask Yourself Questions About Your Topic:

    • What do you know about it? What don't you know?
    • What aspects of your topic interest you: historical, sociological, psychological, etc.?
    • What time period do you want to cover?
    • On what geographic region do you want to focus?
    • What kind of information do you need?
      • A brief summary or a lengthy explanation?
      • Periodical articles, books, essays, encyclopedia articles?
      • Can any statistics be found to support your topic/claim?


    Finally, the most important step is gathering credible sources and "digging and diving" into subject specialists using databases such as Gale. For information about American Government, History or Science, go to Gale’s in Context Series, a database that brings specific subjects into focus.

    The question is:

    Why and how do we use databases? 

    You need to use and get used to databases because college level work requires the ability to read academic literature found in databases. 

    Gale Database Tutorials

    Database List

     V. Evaluating Your Sources

    Use acronym - CARDS - to evaluate websites before you take information from them.

    Note: The greater number of questions listed below answered "yes", the more likely it is you can determine whether the source is of high information quality. You can also use this guide to evaluate other sources too. 

    C - Credibility:

    1. Can you find the author/sponsor of the information?  What are their credentials? Education? Experience? Affiliations?

    2. Can you find an "about us" or "contact us" link?  Does it give more than an email address?  That is, is there a phone number or postal address to contact for more information?


    A - Accuracy:

    1. Do there appear to be errors on the page (ie. spelling, grammar, facts)? These kinds of errors not only indicate a lack of quality control, but can actually produce inaccuracies in information.

    2. Do they cite the sources of their information?


    R - Reliability:

    1. Is the source free from any sense of bias?

    2. Is the information free of advertising or clearly separated from it?


    D - Date:

    1. Is it easy to find the copyright date?

    2. Are there dates for when it was written?  When it was last revised?

    3. If there are statistics, graphs and/or charts, is it clearly stated when the data was gathered?


    S - Source:

    1. Is the information based on primary or secondary sources?

    2. Are there links to other sources that would score high in this CARDS evaluation?


    Additionally, consider the internet address domain:

    • commercial or business  = .com

    • educational institutions  = .edu

    • government agencies  = .gov

    • military organizations  = .mil

    • network resources  =  .net

    • organizations (non-profit and others)  =  .org


    Publisher:   If the book or article is a university publication, then it is a scholarly work. 

    If the source is an article, is it from a popular magazine or a scholarly journal? 

    VI. Citations

    a. MLA Style 8th Edition: Format Your Paper

    General Format

    · Margin: One inch on all sides
    · Font size: 12 point
    · Typeface: Choose an easily readable typeface, e.g., Times New Roman
    · Spacing: Double-space the entire paper
    · Punctuation: Leave one space after a period and other punctuation marks
    · Alignment: Flush left, uneven on right
    · Indentation: Indent one-half inch the first line of every paragraph
    · Pagination: Number all pages in the header flush right with author’s last name first

    Heading Format

    · No title page
    · Type author’s name, instructor's name, course number, and date on separate double-spaced lines
    · Capitalize the first, last and all principal words of title and subtitle
    · Double-space and center the title
    · Double-space between the lines of the title, and between the title and the first line of text

    b. Citation Machines

    Free, web-based, nothing to download, nothing to register for:


    Purdue Writing Lab MLA /Purdue Writing Lab APA

    Warning: Be careful of Hoax Websites:

  • Recommended for Research

    Below are some online sites recommended for student research. Please use Google to locate these search engines online. We hope you find this information valuable!

    Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 11.33.30 AM.png

    Sweetsearch"allows students to choose the most relevant result from a list of credible results, without the distraction of unreliable sites."
    Virtual LRC Logo

    VirtualLRC   The Virtual Library Resource Center was created by teachers and librarians to provide the best academic web results.

    Google Scholar logo

    Google Scholar  Provides a search of scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources, including theses, books, abstracts and articles.