"The Bible of Research"

Research and Report Writing

Choosing a Topic

This research paper may be the most enjoyable of your academic career because you will be researching some aspect of popular culture. For your research paper, you will be free to choose your topic (examples include specific musicians, bands, actors, films, television shows, comic book series, famous athletes, or cultural figures, etc.). I will need to approve your choice to make sure you will be able to research successfully.

As you narrow your topic, consider who your audience will be. You must provide enough information so that your readers will understand your topic. However, you do not want to simply tell them what they already know.

Consider the purpose of your report. What do you want to learn more about and then share with your audience? One good way to start is to ask yourself some questions about your topic. Of course, before you can ask questions, you must know at least a little about the general topic. Find a book, an encyclopedia or an Internet site and do a little preliminary reading.

Your paper will be at least three pages long. You will not be able to cover your topic’s entire history, social contributions, and criticisms in less than three pages.

Setting a Schedule

You will have a timeline that you must follow. Following the timeline carefully will insure that all parts of your research will be completed on time.

What to Do

Date Due


Prewrite – Choose topic, do preliminary reading, think about audience and purpose, narrow topic, arrive at central idea


Wednesday, January 5


Research – Find sources, gather information, take

notes (note cards)


January 5-13


Note Cards -- see instructions and examples on page 5

Monday, January 10,

Tuesday, January 11,

Friday, January 14


Outline – Decide on organization of paper, information to be included


Friday, January 21


Rough Draft – Using note cards and outline, write rough draft


Wednesday, January 26


Final Copy – Edit, revise, teacher edit, complete final copy


Monday, February 14

STEP 1: Finding Information

After you have chosen your topic, you can begin your research. You will use sources such as books, magazines, newspapers, and Internet sites. As you consult these sources, think about the following facts:

  • Author’s background: Check to see whether the author seems qualified to write about this topic. The author should provide facts; any opinions should be backed up with evidence, facts that can be checked.
  • Author’s purpose: Determine whether the purpose is to inform, to prove a point, or to sell a product.
  • Source reliability: Can any facts and figures provided be checked for accuracy? For a web site, find out who sponsors it, and check all facts you find against another reliable source. IF information seems biased, or slanted to a particular point of view, check it against one or two other sources.
  • Date of Publication: Keep in mind that when something was published might affect the information given. Discoveries are made; things are invented; social values change; political divisions are redrawn. Keep these facts in mind when consulting older sources.

Conducting Library Research

You probably have already used many of the resources available in your school or public library. Nevertheless, each new research project you do gives you another chance to use this invaluable source. Every library collection is a unique combination of printed, computerized, and audiovisual materials. Here are some of the basic types of library resources that you may be using:

*Books: Most books are in circulation, which means you can check them out. Use the library computer catalog to locate books about your topic.

*Periodicals: Libraries keep most scholarly journals, magazines, and newspapers in circulation. You will be able to access these from the computer database.

*Computer resources: Many libraries have computers available to library patrons who want to use the Internet. Other on-line databases or reference materials may also be available. You will be able to use the computers in the Louisiana Room and the Computer Lab.

Searching on the Internet

Through the Internet, a vast electronic communications network that connects computer networks worldwide, you can obtain information from many diverse sources. The Internet is so vast that to get information quickly, you should use the tools described below:

      • Search engines are programs that search any type of database for the keywords, or simplified search terms, you type in.
      • Subject directories are special types of search engines that present a list of topics to help you narrow your search. Every choice you make from the list narrows your topic. At the end of your search, you will have a list of Web sites with information on your specific topic.
      • Metasearch engines are advanced tools that search several engines at once.

Each search engine or subject directory searches only a small part of the Web. For that reason, it is best to use at least two different search engines or subject directories for a search. (Ex. Google, Yahoo, AllTheWeb, Metacrawler, Ask Jeeves, Kanoodle, Dogpile, Search.com, Altavista, and WiseNut)

The keywords you use must be exact and specific. For example, a student who wants to learn about the history of baseball bats might type this:

Baseball AND bats AND history AND legends NOT manufacture

Typing words such as baseball, bats, history, legends, manufacture limits your search.

Using words such as AND, NOT, and OR, limits your search.

Here are some more tips to help you perform efficient searches on the Internet:

*Most search engines offer advice about themselves. Find a “Tips” button to click on and read what is there.

*Some search engines offer a “More like this” feature. If one Web site listed seems close to what you need, click on “More like this.” The search engine will search for similar sites.

*Even if a Web site is disappointing, look for other links that appear in it. A Web site that is unreliable or not helpful might link you to a more reliable and useful site.

STEP 2: Preparing Note Cards

After you have located your sources, you must begin reading thoroughly and taking notes. Remember, the writing you do later will depend on the quality of these notes and the information they contain. Your notes must be organized, thorough, and accurate. You will have at least

FOUR note cards (one for each source).

Here are some important points to consider as you take notes:

*Do not take notes on everything you read. You will end up with too many cards, and the information you find will probably repeat itself. You must choose the information that you believe pertains to your report.

*Read carefully and critically. Start with the most comprehensive sources, such as periodical articles. Then move on the more specialized sources. Record only new pieces of information that you encounter.

* Pay attention to context. Taking a piece of information out of context could lead you to provide false information or reach a faulty conclusion in your paper. When taking notes, make sure you record the supporting information an author provides so that you have evidence to back up your statements.

The following information should also go on your note cards:

  1. Citation: First and foremost, record the bibliographic information. Write down the author of the book, article, or site; the title; the city in which the book was published; the publishing company; the copyright date; and the page numbers from which you got the information. This information is extremely important and will be used on the Sources Cited page of your paper. It is also important to get all of the bibliographic information in case it is necessary to go back to this source again.


  1. Subject of Card: It would be helpful to write what the subject of the information is. For example, if you are writing about a person, you may have information about his/her childhood. Another subject may be something that he or she has accomplished. Labeling each piece of information will be helpful in writing your outline and paper. You may completely fill a card with information before going on to the next card. You will have at least one card per source. You may have more than one card for one source.
  1. Card Number: It is helpful to number your cards in sequentially order so that you do not become confused about the order of your information.

Sometimes you may want to quote directly from the resource. Direct quotations, which are taken word for word from the source, should be put in quotation marks (ex. “his world was one of despair”). The other two methods of recording notes from a source, paraphrasing and summarizing, do not require quotation marks. When you paraphrase a statement, you rewrite it in your own words. When you write a summary, your statement contains only the most important pieces of information without descriptive details.

Keep in mind that when you write a note as a direct quotation, you have the option of paraphrasing or summarizing it later. If you take a note in a paraphrased or summarized statement, you cannot turn it into a direct quotation unless you return to the original source and recopy it.

STEP 3: Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism, or presenting someone else’s words or ideas as if they are your own, is a serious issue. Plagiarism carries severe penalties, see the school’s policy below. It is always best to err on the side of caution. Cite the source if you have any question about whether or not you are using another writer’s words or original ideas. You are plagiarizing if you do any of the following without marking the text as a quotation and giving the author credit:

*Repeat a sentence or more of another person’s words

*Present another person’s original term or phrase as your own

*Present another person’s argument or line of thinking as your own

As a student researcher, you must take particular care to document everything that you borrow. Even summaries and paraphrases should be credited. That is why it is so important to take notes carefully so that you know which sentences, phrases, and ideas are yours and which are the authors.

When you are citing another source in a research paper, you may set up the citation in several ways. If you are using a direct quotation, you will cite the source immediately following the quotation.

Below is a copy of the school’s plagiarism policy. None of you can afford a 64 F, so you must protect yourselves with vigilance and hard work. If you plagiarize, you will be caught, and you will --at the very least—receive a 64 F. Claiming that you are ignorant of what constitutes plagiarism OR claiming that your parents are ignorant of what constitutes plagiarism will not excuse you.

Common forms of plagiarism:

Using someone else’s exact (or nearly exact) words without the use of quotes—even if you use parenthetical documentation.

Using someone else’s exact words in quotes but without parenthetical documentation.

Using paraphrased information (someone else’s ideas put into your own words) without the use of parenthetical documentation.

Using information from sources that are not listed in your Works Cited Page.

Copying information from a source and fabricating its origin.

Ascension Day School Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is the representation of another’s work or ideas as one’s own and/or the undocumented use of another’s words or ideas. Students in the middle school are taught at every grade level about plagiarism, how to avoid it, how to correctly document with in-text citations and works cited information, and how to properly paraphrase. Plagiarism is a serious offense at every grade level and in every academic subject. A students in the sixth grade who is caught plagiarizing will receive a 64 F on his/her assignment and will be required to rewrite the assignment. The 64 F will be averaged with whatever grade he/she earns on the rewrite. A student caught plagiarizing in the seventh grade will receive a final grade of a 64 F on his/her assignments. A student caught plagiarizing in the eighth grade will receive a final grade of a zero F on his/her assignment. The administration will determine punishment for any repeat offenses that occur during a student’s tenure at Ascension Day School.

STEP 4: Developing an Outline

The purpose of an outline is a skeleton on which to build your paper. It also serves as a table of contents for your reader, and it helps you to organize your information in a logical way.

You will be required to write an outline consistent with the previous requirements for essay outlines. You must have a thesis statement, three topic sentences, and subtopics under each main point.

  • Group together note cards on similar topics. Use each group as a main topic in your outline.
  • Keep all note cards, even those that do not fit under any heading. You may need them later.

STEP 5: Formatting a Research Paper

As you prepare to write your rough draft, consider how you must format the final paper. It must be typed with proper formatting. This gives you a good start toward formatting the final draft of your paper.

*Margins: Leave a one-inch margin at top, bottom and both sides of every page. Most word processing programs already have this set as a default.

*Spacing: Double-space every line of text. Do not leave extra space after your title or between paragraphs. Make sure that your word processing program is set to double-space. Do not press return twice to double-space.

*Identifying Information: You will do a title page. Specific instructions will be given as to how to arrange the information on the title page. You will also be given specific information as to what information will go on each individual page.

*Title: Center the title of the paper on the double-spaced line below your identifying information (header and page number).

*Paragraphs: Indent the first line of each paragraph five spaces, or one-half inch. In other words, tab once for each new paragraph.

*Short quotations: Write short quotations (4 lines or less) in with the text, but put quotation marks around them. (Long quotations are in a separate indented paragraph)

*Works cited list: Following the text of your paper, start a new page with the heading “Works Cited” centered below your identifying information. Double-space each entry in your list. For entries that are more than one line long, indent the second and following lines one-half inch from the left margin.

STEP 6: Writing a Rough Draft

You have gathered all your resource materials, sorted through your notes, composed an outline, made adjustments to it, and considered the formatting of your paper. Now it is time for you to start writing your first version of your paper, your rough draft. When you begin, don’t worry about whether the writing is perfect. Just follow your outline and get all you notes and ideas on paper. You can fine-tune later.

Here are some tips to help your rough draft flow smoothly:

*Follow your outline when you write your rough draft. Post the most recent version of your outline where you can see it, and refer to it frequently. Move from topic to subtopic to details one step at a time, constructing your paragraphs so that they follow the model provided by your outline.

* Do not feel that you must start your draft with your introduction. You may be more comfortable writing the body of your paper first. The inspiration for your attention-getting introduction may come as you write the body.

*When you do draft your introduction, think of a way to grab your readers’ attention. You may do this by opening with a startling or unusual fact or anecdote, a question, or a quotation. Whatever you use, it should make your reader want to continue beyond the first paragraph. Your introduction should also include your thesis statement. You may have to alter this statement slightly so that it works in your introductory paragraph.

*Do not get stuck on a word. If you cannot think of just the right word, write down the best one you can think of. Then circle it as a reminder to find a more appropriate word later.

*Try to make transitions and logical connections from one idea to the next and between paragraphs. At the same time, recognize that you probably will not get them all the first time. Just move on, and then come back to them later.

*When you include quotations, statistics, or anything that requires documentation, make a note of this in your draft. The easiest way to do this is to write and circle the number of the note card on which you recorded each piece of information. The circled number will alert you to the fact that you must document the information later, when your draft is closer to your final paper.

*When you write your conclusion, you may use words or phrases such as finally, in conclusion, or to conclude to signal the closing of your paper. Your conclusion will also include a summary of your thesis statement or a restatement of the questions—and the answers—your paper explores. Remember, do not write in first or second person.

STEP 7: Documenting Sources Within the Paper

Referring to the works of others in your text by using MLA style is covered in chapter seven of the MLA Style Manual, and chapter five of the Handbook for Writing Research Papers. Both chapters include extensive examples, so it's a good idea to read them over if you want to become familiar with the guidelines or if you have a particular question.

In MLA style, referring to the works of others in your text is done in two ways. When you refer to someone else's idea, through either paraphrasing or quoting them directly, you:

  • Provide the author's name (or the title of the work) and the page (or paragraph) number of the work in a parenthetical citation
  • Provide full citation information for the work in your Works Cited list

This allows people to know which sources you used in writing your essay and then be able to look them up themselves, so that they can use them in their work. Here are some basic guidelines for referring to the works of others in your text:

Parenthetical Citations

MLA format follows the author-page method of citation. This means that the author's last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear in your works cited list (see Your Works Cited Page, below). The author's name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence.

Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (263).

Romantic poetry is characterized by the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (Wordsworth 263).

Wordsworth extensively explored the role of emotion in the creative process (263).

For example:

If the work you are referring to has no author, use an abbreviated version of the work's title. For non-print sources, such as films, TV series, pictures, or other media, or electronic sources, include the name that begins the entry in the Works Cited page.

For example:

An anonymous Wordsworth critic once argued that his poems were too emotional ("Wordsworth Is A Loser" 100).

Sometimes you may have to use an indirect quotation. An indirect quotation is a quotation that you found in another source that was quoting from the original. For such indirect quotations, use "qtd. in" to indicate the source.

For example:

Ravitch argues that high schools are pressured to act as "social service centers, and they don't do that well" (qtd.in Weisman 259).

Sometimes more information is necessary to identify the source from which a quotation is taken. For instance, if two or more authors have the same last name, provide both authors' first initials (or even her or his full name if different authors share initials) in your citation. If you cite more than one work by a particular author, include a shortened title for the particular work from which you are quoting to distinguish it from the other works by that same person.

For example:

Two authors with the same last name:

Although some medical ethicists claim that cloning will lead to designer children

(R. Miller 12), others note that the advantages for medical research outweigh this

consideration (A. Miller 46).

Two works by the same author:


Lightenor has argued that computers are not useful tools for small children ("Too

Soon" 38), though he has acknowledged that early exposure to computer games does lead

to better small motor skill development in a child's second and third year ("Hand-Eye

Development" 17).


When you directly quote the works of others in your paper, you will format quotations differently depending on whether they are long or short quotations. Here are some basic guidelines for incorporating quotations into your paper.

Short Quotations

To indicate short quotations (fewer than four typed lines of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks and incorporate it into your text. Provide the author and specific page citation (in the case of verse, provide line numbers) in the text, and include a complete reference in the Works Cited page. Punctuation marks such as periods, commas, and semicolons should appear after the parenthetical citation. Question marks and exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quoted passage but after the parenthetical citation if they are a part of your text.

For example:

According to some, dreams express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes 184), though others disagree.

According to Foulkes's study, dreams may express "profound aspects of personality" (184).

Is it possible that dreams may express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes 184)?

Cullen concludes, "Of all the things that happened there/ That's all I remember" (11-12).

STEP 8: Compiling a List of Works Cited

Your Works Cited List

The works cited list should appear at the end of your essay. It provides the information necessary for a reader to locate and be able to read any sources you cite in the essay. Each source you cite in the essay must appear in your works-cited list; likewise, each entry in the works-cited list must be cited in your text. Here are some guidelines for preparing your works cited list.

Formatting your works cited list

  • Begin your works cited list on a separate page from the text of the essay.
  • Label the works cited list Works Cited (do not underline the words Works Cited nor put them in quotation marks) and center the words Works Cited at the top of the page.
  • Double space all entries and do not skip spaces between entries.

  • Make the first line of each entry in your list flush left with the margin. Subsequent lines in each entry should be indented one-half inch. This is known as a hanging indent.
  • Keep in mind that underlining and italics are equivalent; you should select one or the other to use throughout your essay.
  • Alphabetize the list of works cited by the first word in each entry (usually the author's last name).

Basic Rules for Citations

  • Authors' names are inverted (last name first); if a work has more than one author, invert only the first author's name, follow it with a comma, and then continue listing the rest of the authors.
  • If you have cited more than one work by a particular author, order them alphabetically by title, and use three hyphens in place of the author's name for every entry after the first.
  • When an author appears both as the sole author of a text and as the first author of a group, list solo-author entries first.
  • If no author is given for a particular work, alphabetize by the title of the piece and use a shortened version of the title for parenthetical citations.
  • Capitalize each word in the titles of articles, books, etc. This rule does not apply to articles, short prepositions, or conjunctions unless one is the first word of the title or subtitle.
  • Underline or italicize titles of books, journals, magazines, newspapers, and films.
  • Use quotation marks around the titles of articles in journals, magazines, and newspapers. Also, use quotation marks for the titles of short stories, book chapters, poems, and songs.
  • List page numbers efficiently, when needed. If you refer to a journal article that appeared on pages 225 through 250, list the page numbers on your Works Cited page as 225-50.


Author(s). Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.


Book with one author

Henley, Patricia. The Hummingbird House. Denver: MacMurray, 1999.


Two books by the same author

(After the first listing of the author's name, use three hyphens and a period for the author's name. List books alphabetically.)

Palmer, William J. Dickens and New Historicism. New York: St. Martin's, 1997.

---. The Films of the Eighties: A Social History. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1993.

Book with more than one author

Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. Boston: Allyn,


If there are more than three authors, you may list only the first author followed by the phrase et al. (the abbreviation for the Latin phrase "and others") in place of the other authors' names, or you may list all the authors in the order in which their names appear on the title page.


Book with a corporate author (a group of people, an organization)

American Allergy Association. Allergies in Children. New York: Random, 1998.


Book or article with no author named

“Frost, Robert”. Encyclopedia of Indiana. New York: Somerset, 1993.

"Cigarette Sales Fall 30% as California Tax Rises." New York Times 14 Sept. 1999: A17.

For parenthetical citations of sources with no author named (in your paper), use a shortened version of the title instead of an author's name. Use quotation marks and underlining as appropriate. For example, parenthetical citations of the two sources above would appear as follows: ( Encyclopedia 235) and ("Cigarette" A17).


An article in a periodical (such as a newspaper or magazine)

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Source. Day Month Year: pages.

When citing the date, list day before month; use a three-letter abbreviation of the month (e.g. Jan., Mar., Aug.). If there is more than one edition available for that date (as in an early and late edition of a newspaper), identify the edition following the date (e.g. 17 May 1987, late ed.).

Magazine or newspaper article

Poniewozik, James. "TV Makes a Too-Close Call." Time 20 Nov. 2000: 70-71.

Trembacki, Paul. "Brees Hopes to Win Heisman for Team." Purdue Exponent 5 Dec. 2000: 20.


An article in a scholarly journal

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal Vol (Year): pages.

"Vol" indicates the volume number of the journal. If the journal uses continuous pagination throughout a particular volume, only volume and year are needed, e.g. Modern Fiction Studies 40 (1998): 251-81. If each issue of the journal begins on page 1, however, you must also provide the issue number following the volume, e.g. Mosaic 19.3 (1986): 33-49.

Essay in a journal with continuous pagination

Allen, Emily. "Staging Identity: Frances Burney's Allegory of Genre." Eighteenth-Century Studies 31 (1998): 433-51.

Essay in a journal that pages each issue separately

Duvall, John N. "The (Super)Marketplace of Images: Television as Unmediated Mediation in DeLillo's White Noise." Arizona Quarterly 50.3 (1994): 127-53.

Other Sources

(Television, Video, etc.)

Television or radio program

"The Blessing Way." The X-Files. Fox. WXIA, Atlanta. 19 Jul. 1998.

Sound recording

U2. All That You Can't Leave Behind. Interscope, 2000.


The Usual Suspects. Dir. Bryan Singer. Perf. Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin, and Benecio del Toro. Polygram, 1995.

Basic Forms for Electronic Sources

If no author is given for a web page or electronic source, start with and alphabetize by the title of the piece and use a shortened version of the title for parenthetical citations.

A web site

Author(s). Name of Page. Date of Posting/Revision. Name of institution/organization affiliated

with the site. Date of Access <electronic address>.

It is necessary to list your date of access because web postings are often updated, and information available at one date may no longer be available later. Be sure to include the complete address for the site. Also, note the use of angled brackets(< >) around the electronic address; MLA requires them for clarity.

Web site examples

Felluga, Dino. Undergraduate Guide to Literary Theory. 17 Dec. 1999. Purdue University. 15

Nov. 2000 <http://omni.cc.purdue.edu@7Efelluga/theory2.html>.

Purdue Online Writing Lab. 2003. Purdue University. 10 Feb. 2003


An article on a web site

Author(s)."Article Title." Name of web site. Date of posting/revision. Name of

institution/organization affiliated with site. Date of access <electronic address>.

Article on a web site

Poland, Dave. "The Hot Button." Roughcut. 26 Oct. 1998. Turner Network Television. 28 Oct.

1998 <http://www.roughcut.com>.

"Using Modern Language Association (MLA) Format." Purdue Online Writing Lab. 2003.

Purdue University. 6 Feb. 2003



Use this website for help with MLA style: