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Tips for Students Writing Research Papers:

(1) When you begin doing research, it is easy to become a glutton at the library. Rather than greedily hoarding the books, articles, and other treasures at the library, share and cooperate with other students. Find out which students are working on similar subjects. Then, pool your xerox copies and any materials from the library together in one collection. Pass along tips about good sources via the e-mail discussion list if your class has one.

(2) In literary studies and most college disciplines, it is considered amateurish to rely primarily on webpages for research materials. Real scholars and college-level students rely primarily on peer-reviewed sources. If you are a student at Carson-Newman, most of the scholarly journals we have access to are available from the library webpages in electronic databases (such as JSTOR, Infotrac, and so on). Sparknotes are not a scholarly source. Cliff's Notes are not a scholarly source.

(3) Again, be wary of on-line research. Because any monkey with HTML training can instantly throw up a website, research on the net is a perilous wasteland. Analyze your websites carefully, perhaps perusing one of the following guidelines before you begin:

(4) Print out copies of webpages that you cite. Because electronic resources are ephemeral, the material you quote might vanish in a few days when the webmaster grows bored with that page. Proving that you did find the material on the web (or to prove that you aren't plagiarizing your source) is impossible unless you keep a printout.

(5) Make friends with your local librarians. Woo them with candy bars, thank-you cards, and a friendly demeanor. Get to know them on a first-name basis. This is an investment in the next several years of college study. It will pay off when you need that library book loaned in less than four days, or when you need that article in Iceland's National Library faxed to you.

(6) Acquire a copy of the guidelines for research papers in your particular field of study. If you ever publish a paper, it is likely the editor will want you to follow that particular format. Even if you never publish your work, it is likely that teachers in your field of study will require that format for their particular assignments, so you can save yourself heartache and rewriting by acquiring a copy early and becoming familiar with that format. For English students, this format will be MLA format (Modern Language Association). In other classes, you may be writing papers in Turabian, APA (American Psychological Association), AP (Associated Press), or Chicago Manual of Style. You should examine a list of appropriate formats for different fields of study and ask your teacher which one to use if you are unsure.


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Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2017. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated January 5, 2017. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.