Start Researching

  • Brainstorm Search Terms

    Begin your research by brainstorming all key words, phrases, and any possible search terms related to your narrowed topic. You will use this list to search indices of books, databases, and the Internet.

    Organizing Research Notes

    Organizing research notes is crucial to writing a good paper and avoiding plagiarism. Keep all your research notes, articles, rough drafts, assignment sheets, and so forth in one place such as a binder or folder. We always have extra manila folders in the library. Try not to mix your research with other class materials. If you are using an electronic note-card program like Google NotebookEvernote, or Zoho or a word processing program, then be sure that you are saving every few minutes and saving to multiple locations i.e. pen drive, hard drive, email, etc. If you prefer a paper note-taking method, check out Keys to Literacy's note-taking template. You can add source information to each page so that you keep track of the classroom lectures, books, web sites, and so forth that you are using for your assignment. 

    Note taking for a research paper requires three components:

    1. Bibliographic information of book/article/website should be on a separate source card. See Start Citing section of this
    guide for proper citing format. The notecards from that source should include a title for the note card in the top left corner of the page/card that corresponds with that source. 

    2. The student's initials should be in the upper right-hand corner followed by card number. The lower left should have an "S" for summary, a "DQ" for direct quote, and a "P" for paraphrase.  In the lower right-hand corner of the note card, the student should identify the source [corresponding with source card] and page number or paragraph number. (See models below). To identify sources, the student can use letters [A, B, C, D ...] or color code sources by using a different color paper/card for each source. 

    3. Good notes differentiate between paraphrases, direct quotes, and summaries. Check out Indiana University's site for tips on how to avoid plagiarism. The majority of your notes will be paraphrases. You will only keep a direct quote if the quote is so elegant, powerful and perfect that paraphrasing would contaminate its eloquence. All quotes should be transcribed exactly as written and preceded and followed by quotation marks. 

    Find Print Resources

    Begin with print sources. Use MassCat in the school or at home to find books on your topic. Use the indices and tables of contents of these books for only the pages that are relevant to your topic. Begin taking notes. Remember that you will have to cite sources so be sure to get the full bibliographic information on each book. See the Start Citing section of this site for correct format.
    Find Articles

    Go to our online subscription databases such as Facts On File, eLibrary, INFOTRAC, Newsbank, etc. Using the list of search terms from above, begin to find articles on your topic. Skim the article to be sure it is relevant before you decide to print or send to your email. Begin taking notes on articles. Remember that you will have to cite sources, so be sure to get the full bibliographic information on each article. See the Start Citing section of this site for proper format.

    Find Internet Websites

    If your teacher allows websites as a source, use the search terms you brainstormed earlier to find relevant websites. Remember you will have to cite sources, so be sure to get the full bibliographic information on each website. See the Citation Guide section of this guide. for proper format.

    Websites require more careful evaluation than books. Books are scrutinized by publishing companies for accuracy, while the World Wide Web allows anyone to post anything, whether it is factual or not. Be especially cautious of personal blogs and sites like wikipedia. Therefore, you must find this information for every site you intend to use for your assignment: the type of domain, i.e., .com, .edu, .org; the author/organization who wrote website; the background of author/organization; the last update, a Bibliography/Reference list, check who is linked to site [see below], and analyze the perspective. If your evaluation of the site’s information is not relevant, reliable, or current, do not use the information.

    Find out what other web pages link to this page.
    a. Use

    Type or paste the URL into's search box.
    Click on the link marked "Get siteinfo for:"
    You will see, depending on the volume of traffic to the page:

    * Traffic details.
    * Contact/ownership info for the domain name.
    * "Related links" to other sites visited by people who visited the page.
    * Sites that link to the page.

    If you must use the "free web," go to IPL : The Internet Public Library contains internet resources that have been "vetted" by librarians to determine if they are authoritative. 
    Other Resources

    Video documentaries, radio transcripts, and personal interviews can be great resources. Take good notes and be sure to record all information needed for the bibliographic citation.

    Use the THESIS STATEMENT and OUTLINE GENERATOR to get the “wheels turning.”