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Paper Writing - Research paper – Research techniques

Paper Writing - Research paper – Research techniques

Author: Kristina Jacobs

To use techniques to conduct scholarly research and to find appropriate sources for writing assignments.

This packet offers tips and techniques for finding good sources to use in conducting academic and scholarly research that is to be used to complete writing assignments.

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Good research papers require a variety of scholarly sources

Research papers require scholarly sources and a list of references or a bibliography. A variety of scholarly sources should be used to inform the opinions and arguments that you present in your research paper.

Most assignments will require a variety of source materials including books, scholarly journal articles, online journal articles, trustworthy websites (such as .edu or .gov websites), newspapers and television documentaries to be consulted in order to help you learn more about the issues surrounding your research topic and to put together a research paper that is supported by the quality of the research that has been done by other scholars in the field on the same topic. You will need to evaluate your sources to make sure that you are using quality information in support of the ideas that you will present in your research paper.


Note: Newspapers, magazines, non-government or educational websites and television shows are not usually considered to be scholarly sources. It is sometimes okay to use these types of sources in your research paper as long as the MAJORITY of your sources are scholarly and you are using them for background information or to show how your topic is viewed in current events or in the popular media. When using information from these types of sources, be sure to preface it with a signal phrase that notes that is is not scholarly.

For example, "Popular media portrays violence in schools, as can been seen by the articles in TIME magazine on cyber bullying and in National Geographic on guns in school."

Stack of booksScholarly Journals
TIME MagazineNational GeographicPBS DVDThe Wall Street Journal

TIP: Aim for at least one quality scholarly source per page of your research paper!

Library databases/indexes

Libraries catalog articles and other source materials in databases. Databases are organized into article indexeswhere you can search by keyword for scholarly journal articles, magazine articles (non-scholarly), images and newspaper articles (non-scholarly). There are two different types of library catalog databases: general indexes and specific indexes.

  • General article indexes help you identify additional keywords and issues related to your topic because they have articles from many different subjects in the same database. Academic Search Premier is the name of a general article index.
  • Specific indexes list primarily scholarly articles and only from one specific subject (per database). For example, ERIC is the name of an index that lists educational articles. PSYCInfo is the name of a specific article index that lists psychology articles.

Tips for searching library databases and article indexes:

  • Refine your search by using additional keywords to improve your search results
  • Write "and" in between each keyword in include the search terms as separate words
  • Open the library citation record to see additional keywords provided by the author

Click on the link to learn more about Boolean Search techniques

Boolean searching is a technique for searching that uses connecting words such as "AND", "OR" and "NOT" in between search terms to control your search results. Click on the link or picture below to visit an interactive module on Boolean searching. Click on "Advanced Search" from the left navigation menu to begin the module.

Boolean Search Techniques

Evaluating your sources- Scholarly vs. Popular

This is a brief slide show with tips on what to look for to decide if a source is scholarly or popular.

Source: Kristina Blasen

Vocabulary- New Terms- Bibliography, Index, Catalog, Keyword search, Source evaluation

·         Bibliography- The bibliography, sometimes referred to as "References" is a list of all the works by other people that you consulted in order to write your research paper.

·         Index- An index is a listing of source materials. Indexes can be found in libraries and online. Indexes use information about an article in order to create a listing. You can search an index by journal name, date, issue number, volume number, author name or journal title. You can also search by keywords found in the article.

·         Catalog- A catalog is a listing of materials available for scholars to use in their research. A catalog provides the databases lists the different indexes that can be searched.

·         Keyword search- A keyword search looks at an article abstract and keywords that have been provided by an article's author, as well as the main words in the article title in order to find the articles that match the group of keywords that you enter into the search box.

·         Source evaluation- Source evaluation is when you check the quality of the sources that you are using in your research paper to see if they are popular or scholarly.

Source: Kristina Blasen