The following guides are designed to help you with various aspects of a research project.

Effective research is all about process. Here are six key steps to get you started on the right path:
  1. Choose a topic—wisely
    There’s nothing worse than having to write a paper on a topic in which you have absolutely no interest. Take some time to browse and find a topic that tweaks your interest. Online directories are perfect for this!
  2. Find general, background information
    Once you have a sense of what you’d like to research, do some background reading. Encyclopedias, books, or Web sites at a lower reading level are perfect for this because you can skim through them very quickly. This reading will help you to…
  3. Focus and narrow your topic
    You only have a limited number of pages to cover your topic. You need to focus on a single aspect of a topic, rather than trying to cover the whole topic in a single paper. The trick is to narrow your focus enough so you can discuss your topic in sufficient detail.
  4. Determine what KIND of information you need
    Are you looking for statistics? Quotes from leading researchers? Historical information? What you are looking for will determine where you go to find it. One source does not fit all!
  5. Plan your search strategy
    Map it out! What are you looking for? Where is the best place to look for this information? What are your key search terms?
  6. Search!
    Remember, the Internet is not your only source of information. Don’t forget, print resources (such as reference books, non-fiction books) and online research databases (such as InfoTrac or EBSCO)!!


Keep track of your sources as you go!
Every research paper must include a Bibliography or Works Cited. You must also properly cite any research you are using within the paper. If you do not give credit to the original authors, you ARE plagiarizing!
So, to save yourself the headache later on, keep track of where you’re finding the information. The online citation machines (MLA or APA) can help you figure out what information you will need (e.g. author’s name, title, publication date, URL or page number).

Apply the CRAAP test to ensure you’re using the best research sources.

Follow this Step-by-Step Guide to Searching InfoTrac for instructions on what to do after you’ve logged into the research database – how to search individual databases or how to search a group of databases together.

There are 2 main elements in properly referencing a research paper:

  1. Parenthetical References (within your paper)
    • Why use parenthetical references?
      • to indicate to your reader that you have used someone else’s words or ideas. This avoids plagiarizing, or using the work of others as your own;
      • to let your reader know the source of your quotation or idea. Because the parenthetical reference follows the quotation or paraphrasing, it indicates your source immediately to the reader.
    • When do you use parenthetical references?
      • for any piece of information, idea, quotation, etc. that is not your own;
    • When do you NOT have to use parenthetical references?
    • popular sayings;
    • facts which are common knowledge (e.g. the World Trade Center attacks happened on September 11th).
    • How do you use parenthetical references?
      • information in the bracket is the first word(s) from your Works Cited entry – usually the author’s name – and the page number (if there is one);
      • if there is no author, include as many words from the beginning of the reference to differentiate it from a similar entry
        • for example, if you have 2 books with no author, one titled “Poverty and Homelessness in Canada” and another titled “Poverty in Canada” , your parenthetical references would be (Poverty and Homelessness 123) and (Poverty in Canada 123) respectively;
      • web sites do not have page numbers so no number would appear in brackets.
      • for APA format, do NOT use page numbers UNLESS it you have used a direct quote!
    • Where do you put parenthetical references?
      • directly after the direct quote or fact or idea that you have used.
        • “Employee morale was only one of Iacocca’s many worries” (Abodaher 318).
        • Iacocca had many worries, including employee morale (Abodaher 318).
      • NOTE: if you use a number of ideas, all from the same source, within one paragraph AND have put all the ideas into your own words, simply put the parenthetical reference at the end of the paragraph.
  2. Works Cited (your list of references – citations – at the end of the paper)
    Every assignment (research paper, brochure, poster, etc.) that requires you to find new information (i.e. not your own idea or something you already know) requires a properly formatted Works Cited.

    There are a few key things to remember:
    • You must cite (create a citation for) every resource (book, journal article, web site, etc) you use – and ONLY those sources you use (i.e. don’t add extra items to your Works Cited to make it look better – that’s a form of plagiarizing!)..
    • Your list of sources must be in ALPHABETICAL order! (by the beginning of each citation – author’s last name, title of book, etc.)
    • Use hanging indents (first line left justified, all following lines indented)
    • Use appropriate formatting (MLA or APA – check with your teacher). The following are condensed (or “cheat sheet”) versions of the RCSS Style Guide (currently under revision):
    • How to reference Figures & Tables: photos, images, maps, etc. (MLA or APA)
    • Powerpoint presentation on how to cite photos
    • Sometimes you are required to do an Annotated Works Cited – evaluative or summary (use either MLA or APA – this example uses APA).
    A citation maker can also help you create citations – but be sure to double check against the examples given in the cheat sheets/Style Guide since they still make mistakes.
If you’re still looking for more examples or advanced information on citing sources, check out Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL).


If you need help with your creating your Works Cited or how to reference your sources, ask Ms. Martin!

Make your database searches more effective with Boolean search strings.  You can also apply this same logic to any Google search to improve your search results!

As we use more and more information from online sources, it’s easy to accidentally plagiarize. Check out this  Plagiarism Pitfalls handout to learn about to avoid plagiarizing other people’s work.

Use this Research Notes worksheet to help organize your research.  Save this Word document to your computer…you can then upload it and save a copy to your Google Docs.


If you need help with your research, including ideas for topics, how to narrow down a topic, or what sources to start with, or how to cite your sources, ask Ms. Martin!