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Research Guide: Use Sources

Tips, tools, and services to help you find, evaluate, and use library resources in your research and class assignments.

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Picking Your Topic IS Research

Developing a Thesis

Good research starts with a well-developed thesis statement. Think of your paper as an argument that you will construct in order to persuade your professor and peers to agree with your point of view on a particular subject. Your sources will be the evidence you use to support this point of view. Your thesis statement is your chance to let the audience know what you plan to argue and how you plan to argue it so that they are better able to frame your evidence and argument as they read your paper. Having an idea of what your thesis will be will help you locate and evaluate resources as you research but don't be afraid to adjust your thesis statement as needed throughout the writing process in order to make the strongest argument or to use the best sources as you establish your point of view.

Check out this resource from the Harvard College Writing Center for more strategies on Developing a Thesis.

Here are some more Thesis Statement Tips from LEO.

Changes to MLA Style, 2016

IMPORTANT NOTE!

There have been some major changes to MLA style of documentation with the release of the 8th edition in April, 2016. The current system is based on a few principles, rather than an extensive list of specific rules. It is organized according to the process of documentation, rather than by the sources themselves. This process teaches writers a flexible method that is universally applicable. Once you are familiar with the method, you can use it to document any type of source, for any type of paper, in any field.

Here is an overview of the process:

When deciding how to cite your source, start by consulting the list of core elements. These are the general pieces of information that MLA suggests including in each Works Cited entry. In your citation, the elements should be listed in the following order:

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of container,
  4. Other contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.

Citation Management Tools

Did you know all of our library databases have tools to help you cite your sources correctly? Look for the Cite button in the tools section of the detailed record view for help citing your sources in ALA, MLA and other common academic writing styles.

Looking to up your research game? Feeling the strain of information overload this semester? Keep track of your research and organize your sources with these free web applications.

Using Source Effectively: Writing Well

Academic writing is held to the same standards as scholarly publications in terms of form and content. This means your professors will expect you to be able to conduct original research using appropriate (often scholarly) resources, to develop a sound thesis statement, to present your ideas in an organized and professional manner, and to use the work of others appropriately to support your argument. 

The three main ways to use the words and ideas of others in your work are through:

  • Quotations - including identical information directly from a source 
  • Paraphrases - including information from a source rephrased in your own words
  • Summaries - including a broad or generalized version of the "main idea" from a source

Using sources is an essential part of academic writing as every argument must show an awareness of the current state of research within the field related to the research topic and should respond, even if to disagree, with the norms that have been accepted by the subject experts. Though using sources is an important part of participating in the conversation that is academic writing remember, your sources are there to support your ideas not replace them! Using too few or too many quotes, paraphrases, and summaries can weaken your argument and have a negative impact on your research. 

Using Sources Ethically - Avoiding Plagiarism

Schreiner University prohibits plagiarism as part of its Code of Academic Conduct "Submitting material that in part or whole is not entirely one’s own work without attributing those same portions to their correct source. (Themes, essays, term papers, tests and other similar requirements must be the work of the student submitting them. When direct quotations are used, they must be indicated, and when the ideas of another are incorporated in the paper, they must be appropriately acknowledged." (p. 63)

Plagiarism may occur in any of the following ways:

  • Theft by publishing, submitting or "turning in" another's work as your own
  • Directly quoting or paraphrasing the words and ideas of others without giving proper credit and citation
  • Providing incorrect or incomplete source information
  • Changing a few of the words and claiming the thought as your own
  • Using another's thoughts or ideas so extensively that it constitutes the majority of your own work (with or without proper citation)
  • Self-plagiarism, or submitting previously created work as new and original work

The good news is, avoiding plagiarism is easy! Anytime you use, quote, paraphrase, or summarize the work of others, cite your source. Before submitting your work double check to make sure your Works Cited page matches the cited resources within your paper or project.

For more information on identifying and avoiding plagiarism, check out these links:

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